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How to implement effective organizational change

by ​Bill Mullins


Five considerations when implementing change

Time: 4 minute read

Most business leaders today acknowledge that change is integral to success.

Technology, behavior, expectations and opportunities evolve constantly, and to keep up and remain competitive, companies must find ways to be flexible. This means not only being quick on your feet and responsive, but — occasionally — implementing organizational changes that make your company more able to thrive and compete. It’s a safe bet that, either in the near past or near future, your company has this sort of change in its timeline.

Unfortunately, it’s all too common for these changes to fall short. Last year Towers Watson1 reported that only 25 percent of companies could sustain long-term gain from their change management initiatives.

Reasons for this vary: the status quo is too entrenched, priorities are in conflict, funding and resources are lacking, etc. Where do these barriers correspond, in terms of staff? Oftentimes, the bottlenecks start at the top. And these are the people tasked with implementing changes.

The fact that changes so often fail to take root doesn’t suggest that managers and supervisors are somehow dropping the ball. Rather it suggests that change management is a heavy, complicated lift.

Here’s a look at how to approach change management in a way that relieves the burden from middle managers and yields the results your company desires.


​When you assign work to someone, you don’t just order them to hop to it. You give them context — why the work needs to be done, what the expectations are, etc. The same is true when you’re implementing organizational change.

1. Measure Need and Capacity

A good plan makes all the difference. And a good plan is dependent on knowing both what you want and what you can realistically achieve, in as much detail as possible. Successful change begins with fact-finding across the organization, in every area that change will affect. In many cases an experienced change management services provider can help you quantify your needs and capacity, and help you draft a plan that is the right fit for you.

2. Focus on Engagement

When you assign work to someone, you don’t just order them to hop to it. You give them context — why the work needs to be done, what the expectations are, etc. The same is true when you’re implementing organizational change. You need your employees to be on board with the changes taking place, so you need to invite them aboard with transparency, frequent communication and inclusion.

3. Listen

According to Aon Hewitt,2 the top driver of employee engagement during times of change is their involvement in decision making. As systems scientist and MIT lecturer Peter Senge famously said, “People don’t resist change. They resist being changed!” An effective change management approach will gather input from throughout the organization — especially from end-user Subject Matter Experts and Line of Business Managers — and devise a plan that weighs that input responsibly.

4. Set KPIs

The goal of workplace change shouldn’t be “to get through it.” What are you hoping to improve with this change? In what ways do you want this improvement to show, and how can you measure it? Setting clear KPIs for what you mean to accomplish is a way of making sure you stay on task and committed throughout your transition. If you’re going to be different when you come out the other side, you need a clear way of measuring how far you’ve come.

5. Sustain

Given the percentage of failed change initiatives, it’s important to design a plan that explicitly works toward sustainable gains. Use what you learned about attitudes and performance during the transition to design new initiatives that turn this change into the new norm. People still not quite committed? Bring them all the way aboard. Who is fully engaged already? Empower them to become advocates who help others become comfortable and committed.

The disruption of change triggers a drop in productivity. With a conscientious, well-informed approach to change management, you can minimize that drop and decrease the time it takes for your workforce to hit a new, even more productive stride.


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1 Willis Towers Watson. 29 August 2013
2 Aon Hewitt. June 2013
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