Thursday, August 20, 2009

Managing Organizational Change

Managing Organizational Change is Tough
Managers are having to manage change throughout this economic downtown. I see it everyday in my consulting practice with the struggle, the challenges and some missed opportunities. We all seem to be in a live process of figuring out how to do things differently one day at a time as they say. We are restructuring how we deliver services, how we market and how we spend money. Everything is open for reconsideration and many changes are painfully being made as each one of us goes through both a personal and an organizational process.

I see in my own practice so many missed opportunities with conflict over somewhat silly items, miscommunication over expectations and rules, and active bartering to keep things from changing. I am witnessing several executives and their boards in conflict, leaders and their staff in conflict and staff workgroups in conflict. The are all struggling to figure out how to manage today, make decisions for the future and position their organizations for sustainability and survival. The miscommunication is often the hardest for me to watch and the most difficult to sometimes to unravel.

Here are some observations and recommendations for managing change:
  • Create some type of organizational plan - it can be a scenario plan, a strategic plan, a sustainability or results based plan. The idea is to create an organizational road map and a process for gathering input and making decisions. Without the road map, people become confused, get lost, and take some divergent paths that lead to nowhere. The road map or plan provides a process for an organizational conversation and clear focus for all members so everyone can see the future.
  • Be transparent- share information with everyone in clearly thought out ways. Share financial information, share good new and bad news, and provide information even if you can not answer all of the questions. This is not the time to hide, walk around the office with a frown on your face or make sarcastic one liners. Communicate openly, honestly and often if you want to earn respect and head off future problems.
  • Focus on the priorities - this is the time of hard choices and managers have to set and focus on priorities. Hard choices have to be made, changes are best not put off until a crisis develops and people are waiting to be lead. Complaining without action steps, blaming without problem solving and running in place are not going to work. I see too many managers become concerned and then begin complaining, blaming or going in circles. This will not work at solving the financial, social, or business related issues. Strategy and action are needed.
  • Get outside help - sometimes organizations need outside help. A outside voice that can say things you may have already said but because they have no vested interest are heard in a different way. The outsider - consultant, volunteer, or former board member - may be able to mobilize people, articulate the problems and the solutions and reformat the conversation so that people can mobilize and support the changes being proposed.

I often wish I had a magic wand to create the change and make is simple and less painful. I am often the outsider and I can see what is happening, try to intervene but if the miscommunication has gotten so deep it can become impossible to repair. Now is the time for all of us to review our leadership and think about how we manage change.

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