Building Culture Resiliency with Organization Change Management

Ladan Saeid, Director, Change Management, Anixter

Ladan Saeid, Director, Change Management, Anixter

The business environment is faced with constant change, leaving challenges amongst the workforce and its leaders. Mergers and Acquisitions, new technology platforms such as cloud-based ERP’s or SalesForce, new tools and applications, or re-structuring, and now a pandemic are a few examples of projects that can change an organization. These projects are an integral part of the company’s growth and survival. Fierce competition, innovation, and rapid technology growth force companies to transform for further efficiencies and productivity gains or face the consequences. It is critical for support functions like Information Technology (IT) and Human Resources (HR) to keep up with growing technologies and support the already change-exhausted organization. These tools/applications will impact the entire workforce in some way and modify the way work is done.

Transformations as such will not slow down or disappear. We must learn to cope with it and manage it in a way that will have minimal impact and risks to the employees. Most human beings are habitual creatures. We like to create a process that is efficient for us. Personal efficiency is geared to support an individual’s productivity, performance, and personal demands. Therefore, the concept of any adjustment, even for a state-of-the-art technology platform that is meant to enhance productivity and efficiency will be perceived as disruptive. So, then what are we supposed to do? Managing change has been proven to be vital and has become a key to success on many projects. However, managing change based on standard methodology will only help move the needle so much. To be able to manage change effectively, organizations need to cultivate a strong, dedicated and qualified team that can help transform the culture to be more resilient.

"To manage change effectively, organizations need to cultivate a strong, dedicated and qualified team that can help transform the culture to be more resilient"

Cranefield School of Management defines organization resiliency as the ability to anticipate, prepare for, and adapt to disruption. A resilient organization will embrace transformation efforts and help realize the value at a much faster pace. An adaptive workforce will have a much higher adoption rate with less time spent for project teams to help reinforcement after the tool is already in place. So, what can you do to build a resilient organization? A change management office (CMO) can help build a resilient organization. Prosci defines “Change management as a discipline that guides how we prepare, equip, and support individuals to successfully adopt change to drive organization success and outcomes”. Organization’s success and outcomes are often defined at a project level but what if we measure it at the organizational level? What if we measure it based on the company’s willingness and openness to embrace new ideas and technology? Nowadays given the amount of transformation efforts, more and more companies are investing in a CMO. Taking that investment and amplifying the benefits requires an experienced change management personnel that can help operationalize the office to not only deliver successful projects but build and maintain resiliency within the organization. How then do we operationalize a CMO? Here are some considerations:

Although there are different options on how change management can be structured, it is critical to have a seat at the decision-making table. Having visibility to the company’s overall strategic direction and goals helps the team with planning and staffing. It allows the team to work with top executives, help transform the culture, and lead by example.

Cultural resiliency needs to be demonstrated by leadership and cascaded throughout the organization. The CMO can help develop a program that builds resiliency exercises as part of the change management strategy in the overall roadmap in preparation for transformations. The change management strategy will include opportunities to carry the right behaviors to top leaders and model it to the entire organization starting before the project(s) have been kicked off.

The change management methodology should include a vision and strategy that is tailored and modified to fit the broader corporate strategic roadmap. This should include ways to help the organization become more resilient. One of the main considerations here is to have a plan that includes the voice of executives, with ways for them to paint a picture that allows employees to anticipate what is coming their way, when it is coming, and how it will impact them. Disruption and anxiety around change can be minimized when employees know what is happening so they can better plan for it.

It is also worth to note that many individuals go through their own personal emotional rollercoasters when dealing with a big change. It is important to get a pulse of the organization and understand the mood of the affected individuals, and then plan to address it while maximizing on the wins. This allows leadership to be connected to how employees feel and think. The broader change management plan can then be put into motion to address those gaps and help people be more open and accepting of the change coming their direction. Establishing a baseline around resiliency and building a plan to move the metrics to a positive direction can help organizations be adaptive to change at a higher rate.

Bottom line change management is effective on projects and more effective for organizations if it is part of the larger decision making and aware of the strategic direction. The purpose of change management is to help organizations move from current state to future state and build a culture that is open to embrace new ideas. Having a big team of skilled change management professionals placed on all projects to keep up with the pace and agility, although essential, is not enough. The rate of adoption and level of effort will be much better if we build a culture that is resilient.

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