Change is a natural and even inevitable part of an organization’s life cycle. As the organization grows, learns, and adapts, it will be necessary to alter your strategies or even shift your mission. At a minimum, most organizations create new strategic plans every three to five years.
The successful implementation of those changes and plans will require the cooperation and commitment of the whole organization – from entry-level staff to your Board. After all, everyone plays a role in the success of the organization.
But change can be hard. Some people fear what such changes mean for their jobs. Others worry if it’s the right decision for the organization. Some like things the way they are and don’t want things to change. Some people just naturally are creatures of habit, finding comfort in the familiar, and they have a hard time with change. Change can create stress, anxiety, and dissatisfaction and disengagement. All of this resistance will make it harder for the organization to implement any change and succeed in making a shift.
Most of the time, strategic planning happens with a focus on producing the deliverable without fully considering the process or how it affects others. Any good planning process should assess potential resistance and proactively respond to ensure successful implementation of the plan. This takes a little more effort, but done well, it makes organizational changes so much easier.
Here are a few ways to reduce resistance and improve acceptance of and commitment to the new plan:
- Consider potential concerns from the start. Survey the employees to get an understanding for how people are feeling and to identify both those who will resist the changes and those who can help promote them. What specific concerns do people have? How can you alleviate those concerns and send a positive message that resonates with staff?
- Communicate a clear vision and value. If you want people to get on board with the changes, they need to understand the purpose and benefits of such changes. Why is this change so important? Why now? What will things look like with the changes? How will things be better for the organization and everyone who works there?
- Involve people in the process. Reach out to key people in the organization who can help implement the changes and help build a coalition of support. Empower the staff to be proactive and help solve any problems that may arise in the process. Keep channels open for ideas and feedback that can improve the changes or their implementation.
- Provide regular updates. Keep people informed about the process, key milestones, critical decisions, and opportunities for staff to provide feedback or engage in the process. Also, updates are a good way to reinforce the vision, value, and enthusiasm for the forthcoming changes.
- Offer support during the transition. While you want to provide opportunities for people to provide feedback and be involved in helping the organization change, you also want to make sure employees are supported by the organization. Have someone who can advise employees that are struggling with the transition, and consider making someone involved in the change process serve as a liaison to answer questions or just listen to concerns. Some organizations also offer additional time off to help people deal with stress, or allow flex-time to help them balance personal priorities when work gets too stressful.
Once the changes are in place, be sure to reinforce them with incentives and by demonstrating how such changes are leading to positive outcomes for staff and the organization.
Change is hard, especially when it can mean venturing into the unknown. To make the transition easier, planning for change should include planning for implementation, factoring in others’ feelings about the change into the process. When you need to change an entire organization, you need the entire organization standing with you.