Facilitating Complex Change in Organizations
By Ragland Thomas G.
All Business Leaders and Change Agents will agree that change is the only constant. In addition to the constancy of change, the pace at which change happens has increased dramatically and the complexity of the change has intensified. Organizations are making huge efforts to be ahead of the change curve as they try to compete for survival and success. The pace has increased so much so that organizations are more focused on achieving the immediate and near term success while maintaining course for long term, as the long term is unpredictable. The complexity of change has intensified due to globalization, changing global business cycles, cross cultural dynamics, technology and other disruptions. The complexity is also creating a vacuum of leadership as most leaders are not experienced in the different challenges that organizations are facing. In this scenario of complex change, the question arises as to how we can facilitate complex change with ease. There are 3 critical factors which need to be prioritized while facilitating complex change, and I will call them Priorities, Process, and People. Let’s look at each briefly.
The Priorities of facilitating complex change will be on making the appropriate decisions relating to change. Some of the priorities that need to be decided upon are the scope of the change, timelines for the change, the triggers for the change in terms of whether it is immediate, short-term or long-term, readiness of the organization for the change, the capacity of the organization in terms of whether it has the resources, the capability of the organization in terms of whether the employees have the required skills, what is the path that the organization wants to take, the style of leadership that will be adopted, the roles that will be required and the focus areas for the change. All these priorities need to be reflected upon by the leadership team ensure as much clarity as possible. These priorities are of critical importance, as they will determine how successful the change effort will be given the complexities of the situation.
The organization needs to develop or use a change process which can be used consistently by all across the organization. In the absence of a consistent process the energies will be expended on how to facilitate change. The process can be developed around how leaders will create the need for urgency, how to develop high performance teams, how to identify short term and long term goals, and how to institutionalize the changes. The process needs to plan for how the frontline supervisors and leaders will facilitate change and this process should be aligned to the specific needs of the organization. The process should be simple and easy with minimal steps so that everyone can understand and follow.
The organization needs to ensure that the people part of the change is given the highest priority as change efforts fail predominantly through people challenges. The organization should be ready to manage emotional reactions to the change. Emotions like shock, anger, fear, and rejection, which are typical responses to the change program, need to be planned for so the organization can manage it by providing the required information upfront, thus reducing the fear of employees, creating opportunities to experiment, and developing the capability to manage the change. The resistance from employees needs to be looked at as a source of information and feedback. The leaders should proactively engage with different sectors of the organization to transform resistance into resources for the change. The focus should be on inspiring the people towards the change and providing the required capability and knowledge for the inspiration to become tangible actions.
While I have shared the three P’s or Priorities, Process, and People to facilitate complex change, the focus should be on using Organization Development approaches to develop the right combination of the three P’s to facilitate complex change–as the requirements may vary based on the context. This is where the knowledge, skill and judgement of the Business Leader and Change Agent becomes critical as they work with their organization to facilitate complex change.
The Organization Development Certified Consultant (ODCC) program is focused on building the required capability to help participants facilitate complex change. The ODCC will prepare Business leaders, OD Professionals and Change Agents to go beyond the regular change methodologies to become ready for facilitating complex change scenarios and gain access to several tools, techniques and models to help organizations and leaders to master complex change.
Ragland Thomas G, MS, ODCC, is currently serving as Vice President for IOD Global Organization Development & Strategy and heads up the Global Institute of Organization Development Networking organization (GIODN) at IOD.
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