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Article No.: 15-9, September 1, 2015

Article Title: Building and Sustaining Organizational Change Agility

Author: Linda Gravett, Ph.D., SPHR, CEQC

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As a leader, you can take affirmative steps to build and sustain an organizational culture that promotes change agility.  Here are a few best practices based on my observation and experience:

  1. Promote brainstorming of options for handling impending change; that is, encourage generation of different choices for minimizing potential barriers.  As a leader, this is when you sit back and encourage employees to take responsibility rather than allowing them to be passive at the beginning and resistant later.

  2. Create what I call “moments of truth”.  These are teachable moments that first take place when you explain your vision and plan for change.  What, exactly, will change in the other person’s world?  Even though a change may seem insignificant to you, it may result in a sense of loss for others in that they feel they’re giving up something.  That “something” may be their daily routine; their favorite chair; an office location; or even their current job.  The more you can walk people through these changes to their everyday life and give them time to process those changes, the easier change will become.

  3. Invite questions that result in a quality dialogue about the impact of change.  When peoples’ questions are addressed, the fear factor becomes less significant.  This also provides you with the opportunity to address feelings of victimhood that lie close to the surface of us all, indicated by statements such as, “Well, I guess I can’t do anything about this.”  As a leader, you can nip this thinking in the bud by asking, “How can we surface potential barriers to this change effort and establish ways to deal with them?”

  4. Tap into individuals’ connection to the organization’s core values.  For example, if the company wants to expand its capabilities to be customer focused and you know that your staff member has this same personal value, be certain to make that point.  My experience is that people want to work with companies that have core values that match their own.

  5. Lastly, you can ensure change agility by removing artificial barriers to change within your culture.  One example of an artificial barrier is a multi-layer hierarchy, especially in small companies.  As a leader, ask yourself whether people, regardless of position, can easily gain access to you to ask a question, provide suggestions, or discuss potential problems.  When access to leaders is repeatedly denied or delayed, people give up…..and great ideas may go by the wayside.

  6. Once people do gain access to leaders, they must not be punished for bringing bad news, such as an idea or product that’s not working as planned.  One company President I work with told her staff on her first day:  “Bring me the truth – I can take it.  And I will always bring you the truth and we’ll work through the ramifications.”

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