Testing the Operational Limits of Organizational Change
So, let’s start the discussion with a simple question, “What are the limits for your organization in adopting change?” That’s not too much to ask, is it? What’s wrong, are you getting tripped up in answering the question?
We can all agree that one of the most commonly cited issues with successful organizational change adoption is the organization’s ability to actually absorb all that is happening around it! More specifically, we know operational leaders are the lynchpin between successful change efforts and those that encounter some challenges. When we ask operational leaders to get behind a specific change effort, the expectation is that they need to readily fall in line (because the initiative makes great business sense!) and support the cause. Of course, this simplistic view of the line managers world really isn’t the case…you forgot to count how many change efforts are underway in the organization and when they are hitting that managers desk.
A potentially better way…
We suggest a better way to effectively manage change in the organization and manage one of the key risks to successful change management, which is, hitting the limits of operational line management (after all, these folks have full time jobs too!).
- Ensure a comprehensive view of significant change events/plans within the organization. This requires you to actually invest in and organize a change management program. This can either be a formal or informal organizational governance structure that helps pull together a comprehensive view of the significant and sometimes moderate change events that will influence the organization and require line managers time and attention. This change roadmap, typically organized into an annual calendar or multi-year view provides executive stakeholders the opportunity to understand what the organization will be expected to adopt during this period of time. The benefits are many, and simply pulling this information together will shed new light on potential timing, sequencing and impact for the organization.
- Establish a capacity planning estimate for each stakeholder group. It’s important to gain an appreciation for the time commitment and expectations for each stakeholder group involved and impacted by the change program and subsequent initiatives supporting the program. Most importantly, take a look at the line manager role and begin to draw conclusions for how much time and capacity they will be expected to devote to the change plan. Is it reasonable to expect them to give it their all or are you setting yourself and the organization for a sub optimal implementation?
- Adopt appropriate change governance processes. You will want to ensure that the change program follows a disciplined approach to how change activities are lining up and who, what, when, where and how stakeholders are being impacted. Once again, make the operational line manager a key element of this governance program. Their success, and ability to lead change, is critical. If you see some time constraints emerging, or activities beginning to merge together that will impact this group, call a time out and explore how you can help the organization adjust and account for these issues.
In summary, what we are really advocating for is that someone in the change program have the operational line managers back. Really consider if they have the time to devote to a change program, while not compromising on operational goals and objectives that are also important for them to hit. Put yourself in their shoes and try to help them rebalance and raise any issues that may confront them. Be their advocate and resource from a governance and oversight standpoint.
You may have to push them when they need to be pushed, but at the same time, they may need an advocate who has the executive team’s ear and can influence timing or who can help them get the appropriate resources.
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Camden Delta is a leading professional services from based in Atlanta serving Fortune 500 and high growth client organizations. Specialization in Workforce Strategy/Planning, Human Capital Management and Organizational Change.
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