November 9, 2017

Successful Organizational Change

Imagine: Your organization is making a change that affects how employees do their jobs—let’s say you’re getting a new software system or adopting a new customer service model.

As a communicator you’ve let employees know what to expect and how to prepare, and you’ve told them multiple times, multiple ways. Your organization can expect a smooth transition, right? Not necessarily.

When it comes to successfully managing organizational change, communication is only part of the equation. You’re likely also coordinating with someone in a training role, and maybe with someone in a change management role. You each have overlapping yet distinct parts to play as the organization moves from today’s reality toward tomorrow’s vision.

Communication, training, change—check, check and check. You’re still missing a critical component: Leadership.

According to change management firm Prosci, participants in the Best Practices in Change Management—2016 Edition identified active and visible executive sponsorship as the top key contributor to successful change initiatives. This finding has been constant in Prosci’s benchmarking reports since 1988. “Executives and senior leaders play an essential role in times of change. An organization looks to its leaders to be visible sponsors of change and to demonstrate why change is necessary. Senior leaders provide the authority and credibility necessary for successful change.”

At JayRay, we’ve worked with a variety of clients to help organizational change by following these three leadership tips: 

  • Pick the right leader to sponsor the effort. Just as the right spokesperson helps an organization navigate a crisis, the right champion helps a change effort succeed. Is the person in a senior leadership position? Does he or she understand what’s involved in leading change? Is he or she excited about leading the effort?

  • Make the leader visible. This can be done through rounding, town halls, brown bag sessions and/or social or intranet posts, messages and videos on employee communication channels. Be consistent with these activities from the beginning to the end of the transition.

  • Always show leadership support. Steve Willis at VitalSmarts wrote in a recent blog post: “When you show up, if you show up, what you say, what you don’t say, and even how you allocate your budget shapes your specific brand of leadership. All of your actions send messages.” The executive sponsor of a change effort should always be its cheerleader.
Broaden your communication plan to include not just employee messages about a change, but also tools to help the initiative’s executive sponsor succeed—from talking points to recommendations on how to maintain visibility.

What else do you find important to successful organizational change? Tweet us @JayRayAdsPR.