People & Transformation

Nothing Is As Constant As Change: 5 Points to Test Your Organization’s Change Resiliency

The old saw is true: Nothing is as constant as change.

And for businesses large and small, the ability to manage change effectively carries benefits that extend far beyond the latest change initiative, corporate transaction, or new process. Effective change management reinforces the long-term cultural health of organizations that apply it consistently over time.

Five Characteristics of Healthy Organizational Culture

Through our work helping organizations successfully navigate change, we’ve identified five characteristics of cultural health, all of which are grounded in and reinforced by a proactive and disciplined approach to change management. They are:

  • a high degree of employee resilience and adaptability;
  • a strong, singular organizational vision;
  • an emphasis on openness, collaboration and inclusion*;
  • a strong commitment to transparency that promotes trust; and
  • the establishment of clear benchmarks for success.

These are some of the same characteristics that typify an effective approach to managing change, and as organizations continue to pile up successful change initiatives rooted in these characteristics, they generate benefits to their overall corporate cultures at the same time. Based on each characteristic, we’ll provide insights from our change strategy and management work that reinforce the positive affect well-managed change has on creating and reinforcing a healthy corporate culture.

Employee Resiliency and Adaptability

It’s no surprise that organizations whose employees are resilient and adaptable are more successful over time, but some organizations have been purposeful about cultivating that characteristic as an element of their cultures. A recent study by the human resource administration firm Conduent HR indicated that nearly 30 percent of the organizations they surveyed now have formal programs designed to help employees be more resilient and adaptable when faced with significant change, whether in a corporate environment or their personal lives.

In specific situations, those skills are fundamental to managing change effectively in any organization. Companies that deploy a consistent and repeatable process to managing transitions generate a workforce that reacts more quickly and proactively to change, exhibits less resistance, cultivates more “change agents,” and ultimately adopts change more smoothly and completely.

Strong, Singular Organizational Vision

Businesses that have a strong, collective understanding of their organizational direction and can communicate their vision effectively to employees have an advantage in managing change initiatives, especially if those initiatives are hardwired to the vision.

Central to achieving clarity of vision is a logical and well-constructed process for goal setting that connects objectives across the business. When vision and goal setting are aligned, it makes the desired state significantly more achievable.

Openness, Collaboration, and Inclusion

Employees involved in a major change initiative are more likely to throw their support behind it if their organization has been transparent about the change during the planning stages and included input from employees in the design process. More and more, organizations are designing work environments and management structures to emphasize an open and collaborative approach to work, from work spaces that maximize interaction and collaboration to organizations like IBM requiring that larger numbers of employees work physically together instead of remotely.

The more attention organizations pay to implementing a change management approach that emphasizes those same concepts – gathering employee input on major change initiatives; sharing decisions and options during the planning stage; and creating teams that are broadly representative of the organization to manage and advise on change – the more they’ll reap the benefits of employees perceiving openness, collaboration, and inclusion as core elements of their larger culture.

Transparency and Trust

These two go hand in hand, especially during significant organizational change. Transparency builds trust. Lack of transparency diminishes trust. A key element of maintaining and reinforcing trust during change initiatives rests with change sponsors, whose narrative, behaviors, and level of support for change can mean the difference between success and failure. Research done by international change management organization Prosci® has consistently pointed to a lack of active and visible sponsorship as the most significant reason for the failure of change initiatives.

Strong, active, and transparent change sponsorship builds trust and confidence during the current change and for future change in the organization, and is also beneficial to other activities within the organization that rely on high levels of trust. The less suspicious employees are of the motivation behind all types of organizational decisions, the more willing they are to engage for the better.

Clear Benchmarks for Success

Organizations that have a strong vision as an element of their culture typically manifest it through clearly defined benchmarks or objectives and alignment in their goal-setting process. The same is true for effective change management. Articulating and tracking the specific benchmarks associated with a change initiative are vital to measuring success and diagnosing resistance.

Even for organizations whose global goal-setting process may not be well-aligned, the discipline of closely managing a set of change-related objectives and benchmarks has the potential to become an accepted cultural norm and bring greater benefits to the organization.

*The term inclusion in this context is intended to refer to employees being actively included in the design of a change initiative.

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