Month: September 2020

How does leadership influence organizational culture?

How does leadership influence organizational culture?

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Debunking 5 myths about the role of leaders in creating thriving workplace cultures.

True or False: Do leaders really impact company culture?

TRUE. It is not shocking that effective leadership correlates to great organizational cultures. After all, leadership is defined as someone who has influence or authority, and leaders can reinforce values while simultaneously holding people accountable. Influence over others can be either positive or negative based on the leadership style and execution of strategy. Effective and ineffective leadership can mutually influence organizational culture. According to SHRM, leaders need to be deliberate in creating a culture where employees can thrive. Failing to build a strong culture is detrimental to employees and the bottom line.

So, what does a good leader look like?
Leaders help people grow by connecting employees to three pillars: purpose, accomplishment, and one another. When leaders connect their people, employees are 373% more likely to have a strong sense of purpose and 747% more likely to be highly engaged while at work. Simply put, a good leader cares and brings out the best in others through coaching, mentoring, and listening.

What are some important elements of company culture?
A positive culture is the foundation of an organization. Meaningful work, appreciation, wellbeing, leadership, and connection are all aspects that contribute to your culture.

Employees spending nearly 1/3 of their lives at work should feel a deep and personal connection with the work they do daily and have a sense of opportunity and motivation to be the best they can be in their role. Having a vision within their role allows people to develop and feel more connected to the work they do. Seeing new and additional opportunities at work helps employees stay engaged and contribute in an impactful way.

Don’t let top talent leave because of company culture. Invest in your employees by celebrating career milestones and achievements. Personal recognition makes employees feel valued by peers, friends, leaders, and family members.

Wellbeing is more than just physical fitness and Fitbits. In addition to physical wellness, wellbeing also encompasses emotional and social wellness. People should feel their best and your culture should reinforce a healthy lifestyle and create a sense of community.

Leaders can reinforce organizational values by helping their people grow and develop through goal setting, opportunities, and recognition. Elevate employees through frequent one-on-ones and regular feedback. When employees have open and ongoing dialogue about their work, their trust in their leader strengthens.

Our research shows there has been an increase in isolation and burnout at work in recent years. Interactions have been replaced by social media tools that were created to connect us. As a result of growing isolation in the workplace, employees are not as connected to their organization or sharing as many experiences collectively. This lack of connection inhibits collaboration and can lead to a decreased sense of belonging and purpose at work.

What aspects of company cultures can leaders really control?
Leaders have a tremendous impact on company culture. They set the agenda, prioritize work, manage, lead, and delegate. Strong leaders provide a sense of vision, purpose, mentorship, and inspiration to those they lead. Today’s diverse workforce is reshaping what it means to achieve personal and professional success. Traditional leadership styles are not resonating with younger generations who thrive upon more growth and coaching. For example, our research shows only 54% of employees report their leaders know what they do while at work, 26% feel their leader encourages collaboration, and 59% believe their leader values them. The relationship between a leader and an employee is a critical connection—if the link is weak or negative, our research shows that employees will be disconnected from other aspects of culture as well.

A changing organizational culture
It is more apparent than ever that today’s workforce needs an effective leadership style that transcends changing organizational principles.

Effective leadership shapes the employee experience, employee engagement, and wellbeing, all which are critical to a thriving workplace culture. To help leaders know where to begin, we’ve looked at the 5 myths about how leadership impacts company culture:

1. Leaders can’t rebuild company culture. FALSE. A broken culture can be a byproduct of poor leadership. Connect for a common purpose. Creating a dialogue and sense of accomplishment where people feel valued will help rebuild a culture of appreciation. According to Gallup, when done incorrectly, relying on performance reviews alone can actually cause more harm than good as they don’t inspire or improve overall performance.

2. Accountability doesn’t really matter. FALSE. Benchmarks and goals reinforce accountability in our own work, no matter the role. C-suite leaders often have trouble emotionally connecting with employees on the front line. Praise positive behavior and endorse employee behaviors that exemplify company values. Recognition programs are an excellent way to embed recognition into daily work and hold people accountable in a positive way.

3. Mentorship is ineffective. FALSE. One of the most useful things a leader can do is focus on developing the people who report to them. Leaders are in the unique position to advocate for and mentor their teams. Organizations should teach managers how to support their employees instead of just being the gatekeeper to their internal careers.

4. The annual review is effective. FALSE. Frequent and effective feedback is the new trend. No more annual or quarterly reviews. According to Gallup, managers who provide weekly feedback have employees who are 5.2x more likely to agree they receive meaningful feedback, 3.2x more likely to be motivated to do outstanding work, and 2.7x more likely to be engaged at work. Regular check-ins provide more of an opportunity to ensure employees are aligning their work to purpose, finding development opportunities, and creating a more impactful dialogue. For more ways leaders can give effective employee feedback, check out this article.

5. Employee recognition doesn’t matter. FALSE. Standup recognition moments provide opportunities for leaders (and peers) to let employees know their work is meaningful and show they are valued. For ways leaders can create a thriving team culture for important employee milestones, click here.

Want more? The 2020 Global Culture Report offers simple, actionable steps you can use right away to create an engaged, thriving workplace culture.

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How to Manage Change During a Merger or Acquisition

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Any type of change is traumatic, but few things are scarier than a merger or acquisition. Whether you’re doing the acquiring or you’re being acquired, this process can be stressful for everyone involved. Managing change related to a merger or acquisition is necessary for both the short- and long-term health of your organization. While mismanagement can lead to lost productivity in the short team, it can also weaken your company from within and make it vulnerable in the future. To effectively manage change, you should focus on your most valuable resource: your employees. Here are five tips to help you prepare for the major change of a merger or acquisition:

1. Identify Skill Gaps and Overlaps

When you join forces with another organization, the first thing on employees’ minds is the status of their jobs. To avoid this panic, you should address employee concerns long before change occurs. And long before you communicate with employees, you should spend time defining how your organization will look post-merger. This will provide visibility into skill gaps and overlaps. If you clarify the situation as quickly as possible, you’ll find it easier to manage change. Less concerned about their jobs or their future, employees will slowly turn back to the task at hand.

2. Focus on Organizational Culture

Bringing together two different organizations is going to combine two different types of organizational cultures. This could cause problems, but it doesn’t have to. In fact, culture can be one of your most effective tools in managing change – it can autocorrect for things you simply cannot control. To avoid culture clashes, you should meet with teams throughout the organization to decide how processes will look post-merger. A strong business process reengineering methodology can help you establish a process framework prior to merging with another organization. Focusing on culture before a merger or acquisition will make it easier for you to incorporate new employees into your organization and facilitate your transformation.

3. Make Communication Easy

During times of change, rumors are your worst enemy. The last thing you want is employees gossiping about what they think is going to happen post-merger. This not only takes people away from work, but it hurts workplace morale, which can have a negative impact on the health of the company. It’s important to establish clear and open lines of communication with employees throughout the acquisition process. Consider developing an organizational change management plan and holding weekly meetings to discuss the latest news related to the merger and to answer any questions people may have. This simple step ensures everyone is on the same page and gives you the chance to dispel rumors while keeping everyone calm and working towards a common goal.

4. Establish Purpose

Many organizations use mergers and acquisitions as a growth strategy. The idea is that if you can combine highly-profitable companies in similar but different markets, then you can increase efficiency and profitability. This can be a smart strategy, but only if stakeholders are aligned. To ensure alignment, you should communicate your strategy and explain how it aligns with your organizational vision. If acquiring a certain company gives you access to a new market, then make your intentions clear.

5. Collaborate

Organizational change can often feel as though it’s being imposed from the top, and this can lead to change resistance. It’s important to make the transformation as collaborative as you can. Recruiting integration teams is a great way to spread the workload of change management, and it makes people feel more involved in the process. Participating in integration teams gives employees another way to stay informed about organizational changes. While preparing for change is important, unforeseen challenges always arise. You should develop a plan but remain flexible as you navigate change. Keep these tips in mind, as they will make your merger or acquisition more successful.

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How to Manage Change During a Merger or Acquisition
7 steps to merger success

7 steps to merger success

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Mergers and acquisitions often create winners and losers at both the corporate and individual staff levels. One culture unseats another. One employee outweighs another. Power struggles prevail. And while policy and organizational decisions are made from above, the organization sits in limbo, slowly becoming disengaged from its focus. It is a hardly satisfactory state, since engaging across corporate cultures should be a near-fluid process in which a meaningful, value-driven focus and corporate loyalty are created from the onset.

M&As play a significant role in the survival and vitalization of corporations today. They continue to be a major strategy for improving innovation, profitability, market share and stock prices. Often, companies view the merger itself as the strategic end-game, rather than the main event. According to the consulting firm, Booz-Allen, which looked at what they classified as, “The Best Deals” since 1999, only one sixth of the M & As they studied increased shareholder value by 44 percent over industry peers. One sixth lost shareholder value by 44 percent relative to industry peers, and 51.3 percent underperformed industry peers. Today, years later, not much has changed. Even worse, little has been written on how to make the process work. (Viscio, Albert J., John R. Habison, Amy Asin, and Richard P. Vitaro, “Post-Merger Integration, What Makes Mergers Work?” Strategy + Business, 4th Quarter, 1999. Reprint No. 99404.)

Our experience and nearly all industry research confirm that when mergers and acquisitions do work, the integration process seems to be holistic, fluid and well executed. In this article, we will highlight the five critical issues (Figure 1) that hinder M & A success and outline our 1-Focus 7-Step Model (Figure 4) to manage these issues. How the corporate leadership focuses its energy, as well as the timing and vision that drive employee engagement, impacts post-merger effectiveness. The single most important factor for post-merger success and long-term sustainability is the involvement and integration of employees from the start to create a common New Identity around a Shared Vision.

Look at any successful change intervention and you will always find a discussion around creating identities and a common vision for the organization. However, these pieces of the process are often not handled as clearly and collaboratively as is needed for merger excellence to occur. In this article, we have highlighted the terms Culture of EngagementNew Identity and Shared Vision to stress that these are the components of the integration plan that require diligence and focus. While in theory the process should be led by the “C”-Level executive team, it is usually assigned to the next level down – which we refer to as the project implementation team. However, it is important to emphasize the requirement for the on-going and continued involvement of the “C”-Level executive role throughout the integration process.

Our 1-Focus 7-Step process has been adapted to address the specific and unique concerns of mergers and acquisitions. Training on specialized activities and various large scale interventions is offered across all levels and functions at various stages. We noticed a competency gap and designed unique identity simulations and team workshops to develop integration process skills at the front end of the process. Beginning at the pre-merger stage, the 1-Focus 7-Step process drives the integration from a Top Down – Bottom Up approach in an organic, collaborative process. A New Identity out of a Shared Vision is created. (Table 1)

Table 1: The Seven Steps of Merger Excellence

Pre MergerCultural DNA Due Diligence: Collaborating on an integration strategy Culture of Engagement framework
Step IInvolvement and Engagement: Dreaming the dream of the future New Identity formulation
Step IIShared Vision: Expanding the vision from mine to ours and giving it life
Step IIIAnalysis: Evaluation of current reality in line with strategy
Step IVAction: Cascading the process by creating ownership in the process
Step VImplementation: Building and creating momentum
Step VIMaintenance: Focusing direction and energy of corporate New Identity
Step VIIRenewal: Re-evaluation and re-creation
REPEAT Step IIntegrated Organization: Dreaming the dream of the new future together

Lessons learned: Communications

The greatest loss that most M & A’s suffer is not due to a poor match, but rather to poor post-merger implementation. This results in staff disengagement, and possibly, even disintegration of the company.

Most mergers focus on financial and business systems integration, which is operationally essential and key to creating a basis for success. At the outset, little attention is paid to the human factors, and communication is limited to “a need to know basis.” By the time the “soft” factors are addressed and people are involved on a broader scale, many employees have either left the organization or become emotionally disengaged.

Employee disengagement is a key sign of post-merger dysfunction. The symptoms of disengagement – alienation or loss of identity with a company/organization/group/team — result in the following outcomes:

  • Day-to-day decision-making grinds to a halt as overall decisions from the top are awaited.
  • People don’t know where they are going to end up or how they will contribute.
  • Employees feel that their security and future are threatened.
  • They no longer feel a vital part of the company.
  • Worker morale plummets.
  • Battle lines are drawn. An “us vs. them” stance emerges where cultural, corporate, country and continental differences are magnified and feared.
  • Personal value is lost or at least undermined. The dominant question in most peoples’ minds is: Where do I fit?

An on-going, cascading communications strategy developed in the pre-merger phase must be rolled out from day one. The more time that passes between the announcement of the integration strategy and the creation of a Culture of Engagement, the more challenging the task of regaining footing becomes.

The emotional rollercoaster:Timing

This initial crisis, disengagement, soon leads to an even deeper crisis, which psychologists refer to as the survival syndrome. In the resulting uncertainty, top performers are the first out the door. When employees become disengaged, it does not take long for customers and distributors to lose brand loyalty and begin to look elsewhere to buy products. In this environment, focus and energy are spent fire-fighting, rather than building a forward momentum.

Establishing engagement becomes more and more difficult as time passes. Creating a new Culture of Engagement is essential within the first thirty days of announcing the merger. Starting this process at the pre-merger stage and staying with it through to integration does more than recreate a New Identity. It increases employees’ sense of belonging, motivation and engagement. These are the main drivers and are essential to maintaining the energy and drive to successfully move through the stress and pressures of the duality stage.

After around six to nine months, energy and emotions are high, as a new focus begins to emerge. However, even with clear direction, there remains an internal emotional conflict as previous processes and the old identity give way to new systems. Exhaustion and frustration begin to set in regardless of how well the integration implementation process is executed. A drop in productivity and engagement will be experienced. It is important to remember that this is normal and short lived. Unfortunately, too many C–Level executive teams begin to “give up” and look for other “quick solutions” instead of staying the course.

From a culture of engagement to a new identity

Historically, little time is spent at the pre-merger stage to define the right strategy for integrating the existing cultures. Will a policy of separation, assimilation, blending or the creation of a new culture be incorporated?

In most situations, employees resist assimilation and the “acquiring” organization finds itself imposing its values and practices. Another strategy that may be adopted is to “take the best of both cultures and create a new one,” without sorting out what is really aligned with the company objectives. The strongest and most engrained elements of each culture, whether good or not, fight to survive. A disintegrated culture emerges that is not aligned with the strategy, synergies are not achieved, and morale continues to fall.

The co-creation and collaborative development of the New Identity through employee involvement creates loyalty and commitment that enable the realization of a shared future. Instead of focusing on a sense of loss caused by the changes, a sense of belonging and community is developed. At the same time, cross-organizational networks and project teams are quickly established. From this emerges a new, vibrant corporate culture, absorbing what is consistent and enabling the new direction and organization to emerge.

M & A uniqueness

M & A’s differ from “normal” change processes in that their very nature requires that a new corporate identity and a methodology for cultural integration be established for the two organizations. The process begins with a state of duality at the beginning. Timing, clarity from the top and connection to the entire organization are essential for a fluid, successful integration process. While these issues can be factors in any organizational change initiative, they are key integration success factors and co-dependent in M&As. Consequently, any methodology or process must address these factors simultaneously from the start of the change process.

The Shared Vision is co-created by the C-Level executive team and incorporates individual perspectives to create a holistic vision. It is then further developed by the implementation team, establishing a truly SHARED Vision. From here, the new organization continues to develop around its core passion and shared perception of the future. In order to rapidly involve the energy and focus of the whole system, a bottom up process involving storytelling around “Organizational Excellence” and the New Identity takes place.

How to pave the road to merger excellence (while avoiding the potholes)

Merged companies face dynamic cultural challenges. They need to listen to customers and reconnect with their employees through a Culture of Engagement. The good news is that when done correctly, the process appears fluid and seamless with minimal stress.

At each stage of the merger or acquisition, clear guidelines and process are required:

  1. A pre-merger process that targets companies that are a good cultural match, have compatible values and are in line with achieving corporate strategy. This begins the integration through rigorous, yet flexible collaborative planning and trust-building. It enables the two companies to move towards a Culture of Engagement, involving stakeholders from both companies at the start of the merger.
  2. A merger process for creating a Shared Vision that can be owned at each level of the organization and readily expanded into an integrated strategy. It is formulated to support and define where the new company is going and communicate how the formation of this new company fits the overall vision. This sets the groundwork for a NEW IDENTITY and a clear corporate brand.
  3. A post-merger process in which time and people are the essence of the collaborative process. Communication is open and transparent. Integration teams are comprised of members from both organizations across stakeholder groups. The process will reinforce core competencies, build a forward momentum and implement a flexible, collaborative, methodology for consolidation. Identification with the New Identity becomes realty.

A process for top down, bottom-up involvement

Our work with M & A’s has shown that the pre-merger integration activities (timing, communications and shared vision) are most critical, but often ignored. In general, companies focus purely on the financial side of the transaction. We feel that it is precisely because of this approach (merger by the numbers and delayed people involvement) that 60 to 80 percent of mergers fail.

The 1-Focus Seven Step Model (Figure 4) moves the organization from the top of the C-Level executive team and the project integration team down and outwards through the organization. Concurrently, it engages all employees (from the bottom up) in the sharing of stories, developing common ground and commitment to organizational excellence. Roles and responsibilities are clear at the top and throughout the organization.

This results in an alignment with and a focus on the Shared Vision, corporate mission and values. It brings the diverse group of stakeholders responsible for the integration, as well as internal and external stakeholders and key players (across the breadth and depth of both organizations), together in large-scale integration and learning meetings in a timely manner.

Together, implementation strategies are developed with a commitment to carrying them out. The commitment leverages cross-organizational knowledge, the most effective community-building techniques and the reforming of functional internal networks around a shared purpose.

In M & As, the initial push must come from the top and be continually reinforced by the C-Level executive team and then the project integration team. To enable momentum, all members must be on the same page. At the onset of the process (pre-merger or very early in Step 1), a clear and serious look at where each member of the C-Level executive team wants to be (individual visions) must be brought to the table. Only from this process can an aggregate Shared Vision be truly developed.

During all change processes, we recommend and encourage various collaborative large-scale interventions that get “the whole system into the room.” This step is critical early on for M & As. It must follow the announcement as soon as possible in order to focus the organization’s energy toward a shared purpose, rather than drifting apart. Cross-stakeholder meetings with a minimum of three across and three down are essential. The core or inner planning group (usually the project implementation team) is most effective when formed and meets regularly as a whole group at the pre-merger stage and is involved in the implementation of the merger.

It is the members of this new community that drive the process outward into the organization in a positive way. At the same time, they create a knowledge center and a healthy, communicative, competitive environment with a purpose (achieving the shared vision). They also enable a positive customer interface and brand loyalty to ensure shareholder value.

The use of large-scale collaborative change methods, if applied effectively, can speed up and raise the effectiveness of the merger process. These methods produce an environment where new connections and strong emotional bonds between participants are formed within the first few hours of these face-to-face meetings. It enables healthy relationships, communications and community-building between participants that take years to develop under more traditional methods of meeting. Actions are also aligned with the strategy. The members of this new community are better able to drive the process outward into the organization in a positive, collaborative way.

A collaborative approach quickly establishes a corporate New Identity that supports the formation of an integrated corporate culture and core strategy. It engages internal and external stakeholders in a larger and wider process of re-engagement by re-creating corporate identity and roles. A “tipping point” of commitment rapidly unites the organization before disengagement and battle lines can be drawn. Those “hate to lose” employees are engaged in the creation and implementation of the change process. The whole of the organization is focused and integrating a Shared Vision and corporate sustainability.

A collaborative process is continuously co-designed with the corporate leadership and appropriate stakeholders to align to the needs and timing of the organization. Each organization has its own rhythm and must develop its own Shared Vision, mission, values, supporting strategy and processes – Its own Corporate Identity. It is the role of the consultants and coaches to follow this rhythm and hold the space for the organization’s process to emerge through appropriate change management, process design and facilitation, questions and coaching. There are no magical solutions or silver bullets. If the process is continuously co-designed, it will appear seamless and fluid with a high degree of positive, engaged energy throughout the organization. Merger Excellence will be achieved.

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The 3 C’s of Change Leadership

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Great Change Leaders Focus on People & Process

Successful change is one of the biggest problems that modern organizations face. In our fast-changing world, the strategic imperative to change is often clear: Without doing things differently, our company is unlikely to succeed, or last.

But change-management research has demonstrated time after time that organizational change initiatives fail more often than they succeed, despite the resources put into creating change management processes.

We know that effective leadership is essential to successful change. But we wanted to understand the differences in leadership between successful and unsuccessful change efforts. That’s why we recently conducted a study where we asked 275 senior executives to reflect on successful and unsuccessful change efforts they’d led.

Our goal was to characterize “change-capable leadership,” define the key leadership competencies necessary for change, and better understand leadership behaviors that could contribute to change failures.

The executives we surveyed were all participants in our Leadership at the Peak program, which targets executives with more than 15 years of management experience, responsibility for 500 or more people, and decision-making authority as members of top management teams. All of them were seasoned leaders.

Our study, the full results of which are available in our white paper, revealed 9 critical leadership competencies of successful change efforts. The 9 change competencies can be further divided into 3 main categories — what we call “the 3 C’s of change,” leading the process, and leading people.

The 3 C’s of Change Leadership

Researchers found that 3 skills provide the necessary connection between the process part of change and the people part of change. These 3 C’s unite effective change leadership:

1. Communicate. Unsuccessful leaders tended to focus on the “what” behind the change. Successful leaders communicated the “what” and the “why.” Leaders who explained the purpose of the change and connected it to the organization’s values or explained the benefits created stronger buy-in and urgency for the change.

2. Collaborate. Bringing people together to plan and execute change is critical. Successful leaders worked across boundaries, encouraged employees to break out of their silos, and refused to tolerate unhealthy competition. They also included employees in decision-making early on, strengthening their commitment to change. Unsuccessful change leaders failed to engage employees early and often in the change process.

3. Commit. Successful leaders made sure their own beliefs and behaviors supported change, too. Change is difficult, but leaders who negotiated it successfully were resilient and persistent, and willing to step outside their comfort zone. They also devoted more of their own time to the change effort and focused on the big picture. Unsuccessful leaders failed to adapt to challenges, expressed negativity, and were impatient with a lack of results.

Leading the Process of Change

Strategic change doesn’t happen on its own. Effective leaders guide the process from start to finish. Here are the 3 key competencies that are part of leading the process:

  • Initiate. After understanding the need for change, effective change leaders begin by making the case for the change they seek. This can include evaluating the business context, understanding the purpose of the change, developing a clear vision and desired outcome, and identifying a common goal. Unsuccessful leaders say they didn’t focus on these tasks enough to reach a common understanding of the goal. Learn more about the challenges to leading change efforts in our article, 3 Steps for Successfully Implementing Change in an Organization.
  • Strategize. Successful leaders developed a strategy and a clear action plan, including priorities, timelines, tasks, structures, behaviors, and resources. They identified what would change, but also what would stay the same. Leaders who weren’t successful said they failed to listen enough to questions and concerns, and failed to define success from the beginning.
  • Execute. Translating strategy into execution is one of the most important things leaders can do. In our study, successful change leaders focused on getting key people into key positions (or removing them, in some cases). They also broke big projects down into small wins to get early victories and build momentum. And they developed metrics and monitoring systems to measure progress. Unsuccessful change leaders sometimes began micromanaging, got mired in implementation details, and failed to consider the bigger picture.

Remember that, as organizations evolve over time, stability and change must coexist — which is not a problem to solve but a polarity to manage. To help your organization achieve its full potential, acknowledge both poles simultaneously. When change leaders find the sweet spot of “both/and,” they can present the change effort in a way that others can embrace.

Leading People Through Change

While formal change processes might be well understood, too many leaders neglect the all-important human side of change. The most effective leaders devoted considerable effort to engaging everyone involved in the change and remembered that people need time to adapt to change — no matter how fast-moving the change initiative. They exhibit these 3 crucial qualities of leading people:

  • Support. Successful change projects were characterized by leaders removing barriers to employee success. These include personal barriers such as wounded egos and a sense of loss, as well as professional barriers such as the time and resources necessary to carry out a change plan. Leaders of unsuccessful change focused exclusively on results, so employees didn’t get the support they needed for the change.
  • Sway. Influence is about gaining not only compliance but also the commitment necessary to drive change. It is also about mapping out the critical change agents and defining what “buy-in” looks like from each stakeholder that will lead to a successful outcome. Effective leaders identified key stakeholders — including board members, C-suite executives, clients, and others — and communicated their vision of successful change to them. Unsuccessful leaders told us they were more likely to avoid certain stakeholders rather than try to influence them.
  • Learn. Finally, successful change leaders never assumed they had all the answers. They asked lots of questions and gathered formal and informal feedback. The input and feedback allowed them to make continual adjustments during the change. In the case of unsuccessful changes, leaders didn’t ask as many questions or gather accurate information, which left them without the knowledge they needed to make appropriate adjustments along the way.

In navigating change, resiliency is required because it helps people handle change’s inherent pressure, uncertainty, and setbacks. Leaders need to build their own reserves and resiliency, in support of their mental and physical health. They also can guide others to face change in healthy and sustainable ways. Learn 3 practices to strengthen resilience in our article, Leadership Resiliency: Handling Stress, Uncertainty, and Setbacks.

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The 3 C’s of Change Leadership
Three Tips For Managing Resistance To Change

Three Tips For Managing Resistance To Change

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Change happens every day in organizations all over the world. Yet for many people, change can be scary.

Many of us like to hold on to a sense of safety and security. We get comfortable doing things a certain way, so being asked to do something differently can trigger emotions such as anger, frustration, depression, fear and anxiety. When we feel threatened by change, many of us find creative ways to push back and hold on to the status quo. I’ve noticed that even the most cooperative, supportive employees may resist change.

Even if the change initiative is intended to improve your employees’ situation, some of them may resist it because they believe that the change is not beneficial for them. They may believe that it will somehow negatively impact their work, violate their values in some way or threaten their finances, their health or their well-being. Some employees may worry about not being able to successfully adapt their behavior. Or they may not trust the people who are communicating the change or have observed previous poor handling of change in the organization.

It’s usually not the change itself that challenges us; it’s the psychological transition we experience that ultimately leads to success or failure. According to McKinsey & Company, “70 percent of change programs fail to achieve their goals, largely due to employee resistance and lack of management support.”

Bottom line: Your team members’ resistance can make or break your change initiative. The question is not whether you will encounter resistance, but rather how you can best manage that resistance and support your team throughout the change process. Leading people through the transition is essential for your organization to achieve its desired outcomes.

Effective change management can erode much of this resistance. As a Prosci Certified Change Practitioner, I’ve found that the key is to expect and plan for resistance and identify how you can best encourage buy-in and commitment. If you don’t take the time to do so, you may experience project delays, lower productivity, higher costs, inefficiencies, turnover of valued employees, changes not being fully implemented or even the change being totally scrapped.

To avoid these potential outcomes, develop a plan to mitigate the impact of resistance. Here are three strategies to get you started:

Identify The Root Causes Of Resistance  

Many times, leaders manage resistance by responding to the observable symptoms, such as employee complaints, lower meeting attendance or employees simply not doing what they’ve been asked to do. However, focusing on the symptoms won’t solve the underlying problem that created the behaviors in the first place. To effectively navigate employee resistance, look deeper into the root causes.

Begin by considering the likely sources of resistance, such as employees who are the most invested in the current way of doing work and those who can expect to have their work negatively impacted as a result of the change. Once you have identified these individuals or groups, hold a series of discussions or workshops about the upcoming change. Give employees the opportunity to express their points of view in a nonjudgmental environment, and truly listen to their objections.

Then, find ways to address these barriers. For example, one of the best ways to overcome objections and build the desire for change is to offer choices. When possible, provide your team members with simple and clear choices along with the consequences of those choices. Put the ownership and control back into their hands. This can move them out of the position of victim and into the role of advocate, so rather than focusing on what they can’t control, they can feel empowered to focus on what they can create given the circumstances.

Involve Senior Leaders

Prosci found that “active and visible executive sponsorship” is the top contributor to the success of change initiatives.If senior leaders don’t commit to the change, or if they waver in their support, employees may perceive the change as unimportant and therefore resist it.

Here are three things you can do as a leader to demonstrate your commitment and involvement:

1. Be present and seen by employees from the start of the change initiative until the end.

2. Build a coalition of sponsors made up of other leaders and influencers who will give the change credibility and help manage resistance.

3. Communicate directly with employees to express the vision and reasons for the change.

Communicate The Change

How you communicate the change is the factor that often most affects how much resistance to change will occur. Employees must believe that the change is needed now, and they must clearly understand what might happen if the organization doesn’t change.

The key is to tell a compelling story to capture and leverage the passion and positive emotions surrounding the change. Describe the future state to inspire people to share in your vision. Include in this vision how individual employees fit into the new organization and how the change will benefit their careers. Be genuine and communicate the change with certainty. If you hesitate, you may introduce doubt. Align your tone of voice and body language with your message. Use positive language. Make sure you use a higher ratio of positive words versus negative/neutral words by avoiding limiting words like “should,” “must” or “can’t.” When individuals fully understand the benefits that the change will offer them, you’ll likely notice that much of the resistance disappears.

Additionally, employees must feel confident that they will receive the appropriate training and support to successfully adapt to the change. Imagine being asked to do something — to behave in a different way —without understanding specifically how to do it. Take the time to clarify expectations, assess the gaps in skills and knowledge that are necessary to support the change, and provide sufficient learning opportunities to fill those gaps.

Resistance is a natural reaction to change. Change can be uncomfortable and often requires a new mindset and behavior. However, you have the power to mitigate that resistance by supporting individuals throughout the change process and helping them realize the full benefits of the change.

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Building An Effective Business Case For Change Management

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Change management is a structured approach designed to ensure end users and adopters understand why changes in an organization are occurring and inevitably adopt and utilize the resulting new systems. Change management is a necessary component to project success because if business users to do not adopt new systems then organizations do not achieve their target business outcomes.

The business case for change management is pretty clear and logical, yet organizations often try to cut budget corners. Next time you find yourself in a meeting making the case for change management, try asking this simple question, “Are the target business outcomes we are trying to achieve dependent on stakeholders changing how they do their job?” For each target business outcome where the answer is yes, ask the follow up question, “What percentage of this outcome results from stakeholders doing their job differently?”

In most cases this is a very powerful exercise when seeking to obtain manager buy-in for including change management in a SOW. Of course if your project involves switching network servers there is going to be very little requisite change involved for employees. But if your project involves new processes, technology, KPI’s, etc., then odds are the realistic answer to the question is somewhere around 75%.

No matter how telling the answer is, sometimes it is not enough. To further support your pitch for change management, I am going to provide three approaches to building a business case for change management. The perspectives I am providing below are intended to alter the view of change management from “nice to have” to “must have”.


Cost Avoidance

Businesses suffer significant added costs when organizational change is poorly managed. Additional resources are required to fix the process or solution, and time is needed to retrain and satisfy disgruntled employees. Other costs that can be expected are: plunges in productivity, customer and supplier impacts, loss of valued employees, reduced quality of work, declining employee morale, stress, confusion, and added resistance.

Separate from these organizational costs are project-specific costs. These costs and disruptions include: project delays, missed milestones, loss of resources, budget miscalculations, unexpected obstacles, and rework required to correct mistakes. In a nutshell, the organization fails to receive the value the project was intended to produce and the initial project investments are lost.

Change management is an effective cost avoidance approach we can use to mitigate these negative consequences.

Risk Mitigation

More than likely risk analysis is already included in your organizations standard project management methodology. A strong approach to assessing the importance of change management is to conduct employee-dependent risk alongside financial risk, security risks, and any other risks your organization may already be conducting.

When change is not properly planned for and managed the organization, project, and stakeholders are all subject to risk. Refer back to the question we discussed earlier “What percentage of achieving the target business outcomes associated with your project depend on people changing how they do their job?”    Whether the answer is a lot or a little, if it includes changes to responsibilities, behaviors, processes, systems or tools, your project has people-dependent risk.
Change management is a powerful risk mitigation solution. When change management is done well organizations achieve their project objectives and employees walk away feeling satisfied, motivated and accomplished.

Benefits Realization

If employees do not understand why changes are being made, embrace the future state, and possess both the knowledge and skillsets required to successfully operate in the to-be state, projects do not achieve the intended results. Change management is an approach designed to ensure users graduate through this process. Think of change management as an insurance policy to protect your organization’s project investment.

Whatever percentage of achieving your project’s target business outcomes can be tied to people changing how they do their jobs is the percentage that can be insured through change management.

CONSIDER YOUR AUDIENCEAll three of these approaches are highly effective, but there is no one size fits all solution. The priorities of managers and stakeholders will vary from company to company and department to department. Before making a decision about the perspective to take, it is important to consider your audience.    §  What are the current pain points creating a need in the first place?    §  What are the goals and objectives of this individual or team?    §  How is the performance of the prospect you are pitching to measured?

If you are presenting to a COO this individual might be most interested in cost avoidance. For a CIO the most successful approach will likely be to focus on risk mitigation. CPO’s are most concerned with cost reduction and efficiency gains, so benefits realization will more often than not yield the best results. The bottom line is in order to close your sale or obtain internal stakeholder buy-in for change management, your success is going to hinge on your efforts to develop a targeted approach.

The next time you find yourself developing a business case for change management, reflect back on these approaches. Consider your audience and their concerns, then select the value perspective(s) that will be most compelling.

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Building An Effective Business Case For Change Management
“Re-entry will be one of the biggest change management moments we’ve ever experienced.”

“Re-entry will be one of the biggest change management moments we’ve ever experienced.”

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Businesses are playing it safe in bringing employees back to the office.

From Los Angeles to Miami, most U.S. cities are pushing ahead with reopening their economies, meaning businesses can begin to bring employees back to their offices, as long as local and state rules are followed. 

Yet even with the green light, many companies are being cautious with the daunting task of the return and a desire to get it right with employees, says Anthea Hoyle, EVP at United Minds, Weber Shandwick’s management consulting group. United Minds launched a workforce re-entry practice last month. 

“Re-entry will be one of the biggest change management moments we’ve ever experienced,” she says. 

Hoyle notes that while businesses shut down literally overnight because of the pandemic and quickly figured out how to operate with a displaced staff, “we are seeing the opposite now. Clients are keeping their offices closed even though they can reopen.”

“They are saying, ‘Great to know the government supports reopening, but are we ready? Not just our operations, but from a people perspective?’” Hoyle explains. “During shutdown, people were being prioritized above commercial interests, and that principle is thankfully carrying through to the reopening phase.” 

After all of the work of putting people first during the shutdown, the last thing companies want to do now is force employees back with a “checklist” of how to keep safe, she says. Instead, companies should take their cues from their teams by keeping a pulse on their emotional state. 

“If part of their anxiety is not wanting to come back, that it feels too soon, then it is really understanding how you can be flexible and make them feel comfortable, regardless of where they work,” says Hoyle. 

At least one United Minds client has made work-from-home its default option for employees, at least until 2022. 

“This client recognized that some employees feel more productive on-site, and if they’re also comfortable with measures to make that site safer, then they can opt-in to work at the office,” she says. “It allows employees to have a choice in where they feel most productive and safe working.” 

Another best practice is to identify and follow an office capacity cap, which will help with social distancing and reduce workforce anxiety. 

“We’re hearing a range of 10% to 25% from clients,” says Hoyle. “I think the number fluctuates depending on the logistics of the space and safety measures in place.” 

Rodrigo Castro, Miami-based VP of technology for BCW, is also seeing office capacity caps of about 25%. 

“Offices started opening at the end of May in Miami, but very, very slowly,” says Castro, who, like the rest of the BCW workforce, continues to work from home. 

Some companies have shuttered their headquarters altogether. This week, the Miami Herald said it is planning to move out of its office in August and that “employees will continue to work remotely through the end of the year.” After that, the media outlet will find “a new centralized home,” one that presumably will make social distancing and other protective measures easier to implement. 

In other cases, “clients are reviewing how to restructure the office before having employees return,” says Castro.

Some media companies have been long known for having open-concept workplaces, and other employers have adopted similar layouts to foster collaboration and creativity, such as brand newsrooms and many PR agencies.

However, most employees don’t want to return to these environments, according to research from the Harris Poll and the Institute for Public Relations. A poll of more than 800 full-time employees in mid-May found 80% agreed that employers should move towards sectioned-off offices and phase out open-space offices. Employees should also be allowed to work from home until they feel comfortable to return, 81% of respondents said.

“This is a great time to rethink brick-and-mortar spaces and rethink the future of work,” says Julie Batliner, president of Carmichael Lynch Relate. “It’s a time to notice what is working about remote working and find a long-term plan to carry that forward.” 

She adds that agencies and companies should not assume that “back to normal” is the right message. 

“What people miss about the pre-COVID in-office environment is not going to be the way it is when they return due to safety protocol,” Batliner explains. “It’s about helping people understand that, and adjust their thinking.” 

Both the agency’s Minneapolis headquarters and New York City office are servicing clients virtually, but Batliner says agency leadership is rethinking how the two locations can be used once they do open.

Other agency leaders say they may continue their work-from-home policies until the end of the year. Some are pondering if they need the same amount of square footage in an office if a part of the staff will always be working remotely. 

Patty Barry, principal of Matter, encourages businesses to remember all the great virtual tools they’ve developed to keep employees motivated and engaged. Matter has been working with Xandr, the advertising and analytics division of AT&T, to create a video series, shot on smartphones, spotlighting how employees and executive leaders are staying connected.

Barry says clients have an opportunity to “build upon some of the unexpectedly great new ways we are working together at this moment,” like video chats and cross-office collaboration. 

Workplaces with on-the-ground staff 

Many types of non-office environments have no choice but to bring employees back into a physical space. However, calling them back in and falling to alleviate their fears would be a recipe for disaster, warns Suzanne Miller, founder and president of Dallas-based SPM Communications. 

She points to Hillstone Restaurant Group, which was returning to 25% capacity in its dining rooms, but banned waiters from wearing face masks. An employee called leadership out on social media.   

“The restaurant had a snarky statement on their website telling people if they didn’t like it, they didn’t have to come. Social media had a field day, and traditional media jumped in soon after,” says Miller. “The restaurant rescinded their policy quickly, but their reputation may be permanently damaged.”

She adds that “the store or restaurant employee is the face of the brand and the key touchpoint for consumers.”

“Having those employees on board and modeling the brand’s stance on precautions to the consumer was everything – nothing communicates a brand’s stance more clearly than seeing what the employees do,” says Miller. 

Fast-food chains such as McDonald’s are trying to be thorough with employee protocols. It has issued a 59-page guide to reopening dining rooms, and PRWeek confirmed that the brand has established a taskforce with franchisees to evaluate the reopening of the dining rooms. 

But are consumers ready? 

With employees on board, SPM Communications worked with Gold’s Gym on the reopening of hundreds of gyms in the U.S. It surveyed members about their willingness to get back into gyms with safety and sanitation protocols. 

With its gyms open, the fitness chain is using email, social media and its website to talk to existing and potential members. It also invited key media to experience some of the changes themselves. 

“Because we’ve invited media into our gyms and been transparent about our reopening plans and what we’re doing to provide a safe environment, the positive coverage has helped members (and potential new members) understand and become comfortable with our temporary new normal,” says Adam Zeitsiff, president and CEO of Gold’s Gym. 

Even if employees are ready and willing for a physical return, Batliner agrees businesses have to factor in whether consumers and clients are ready. 

To that end, Carmichael Lynch Relate has developed the CLEffect Covid-19 Tracker, a tool that helps businesses determine when to reopen brick-and-mortar locations based on markets and the type of customer messaging most appropriate to the customer mindset.

The tool takes mindset, along with information about how the virus is spreading, state and local regulations, economic indicators and media activity for the competitive set, and overlays it with client sales data – both online and brick and mortar – to come to a recommendation. 

“There are various stages of mindset for the pandemic including denial, anxiety, adjustment, re-evaluation, new-normal and next-normal,” says Batliner.

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Change Management Strategies For Getting Back To Work: 10 Ways To Ensure Success

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The coronavirus pandemic has thrust every business and leader into a situation of managing change and thinking about how to get people on board for what comes next. In retrospect, the giant social experiment in which organizations suddenly sent everyone home was the easy part. The bigger challenge will be to bring people back to the workplace—because nothing will be the same in the short term—and perhaps not in the longer term either.

At its core, change management principles are solid and they apply in multiple situations. Providing a vision for the future, engaging people, reducing perceived costs of a change—all of these make sense and are so foundational they cannot be wrong. And yet, the pandemic has turned everything upside down, so the change management associated with how people will come back to the office requires a new view, new practices and new expectations.

Here’s what’s changed about change management, and what to do about it:

Messaging And Motivation

The why. Motivating people to change requires you provide a compelling “why”, and this will be especially critical as you bring people back to the office. The barriers that kept companies from allowing people to work from home have been decimated and many teams have proven their work can be done quite successfully without commutes, campuses or conference rooms. But as the saying goes, “Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should.” At the same time the work can get done outside the office, physical places also provide critical benefits for people. They satisfy the human need to connect, build energy through co-creation, provide for memory and reflection, reinforce shared purpose and so much more. Communicate your why based on the mission of your overall business, the value you create for your customers and how people’s work contributes to these. Be clear about how the change—bringing people back to the office—matters to all elements of your why. People must understand and appreciate these to be motivated to change.

Vision. Another critical element of managing change successfully is creating a compelling vision of the future. Your vision should include, but go beyond your why and focus on the future, painting a vivid—and hopefully optimistic—picture of what people can expect. While none of us has a crystal ball, it may help to use the design thinking concepts of “now, near and far.” Provide a view of what will happen in the short-term of the now, the medium-term of the near and the longer-term of the far. It may also help to consider a pre-vaccine future and a post-vaccine future. The clarity you can provide may be greater in the short-term pre-vaccine future, but the optimism you are able to supply may be greater for the far, post-vaccine world. Inform your messaging with both. 

Expectations. People don’t trust what they don’t understand. The challenges for the pre-vaccine return to the workplace is people will be coming back to something completely different than what they knew before. How they get to the office, how they enter the building, how many people can ride the elevator, where they work throughout the day, whether they have food service and even how many people can access the restroom will be different. Give people as many details as possible about what to expect and help them understand how their work will be accomplished under new conditions.

The costs. A fundamental truth in change management is people will not be motivated to change if they perceive the costs of changing to be greater than the benefits of staying the same. You’ll need to reassure people about how you’re protecting them and ensuring their health and safety. Perception is reality, so messaging will be important, but what people can sense and see will be even more critical. When they enter the building will it smell clean? Will they see cleaning crews working regularly? Will they experience signage that guides them in social distancing? Ensure you’re reducing the risks people face coming back—both real and perceived.

Focusing On People

Choice and control. People don’t resist change; they resist being changed. And they need to be empowered to make their own decisions following the pandemic even more so than through other transitions. Employees will have varying levels of comfort with coming back to the office. They’ll be concerned with everything from their own health and the health of those close to them to whether they’ll be able to see, hear and communicate adequately while wearing a mask. Give people as many options as possible about when and how they come back. Also, be clear about whether employees’ jobs demand their presence, and the consequences if they choose not to return—so they can make informed decisions.

Engagement. While a lot of the guidelines or protocols you’re putting in place may be federally or state-mandated and therefore require leadership decision making, remember to engage people as much as possible. Consider how you might involve people in creating responses and solutions. The “what” may be mandated, but you may be able to give people a chance to influence the “how.” Temperature checks may be required for entry to the building, but employees could provide input on whether there are staggered start times or multiple check locations. Give people the chance to work on a task force or respond to a survey about how things get done. You clearly can’t give everyone a vote but give them a voice where possible.

Behaviors. Of course, it’s easier to make rules than it is to get people to follow them. As you’re developing new protocols, give thought to what will motivate employees to buy-in and act in new ways. They will likely be good corporate citizens and do their best to follow requirements, but the way to get people committed and motivated is through their connection to others. Help people understand how the rules contribute to a colleague’s wellbeing or a teammate’s grandmother’s health. Our humanity and responsibility to each other are the best motivators.

Empathy. Overall, people want to know you care. Ensure you’re delivering messages with compassion and empathy. Remember it’s not just about sharing facts, figures or new procedures. It’s also about the extent to which people feel you’re supporting them—not just in the office but throughout their whole work experience. Attend to people’s physical, cognitive and emotional wellbeing and safety. Also, be patient with people. When they are under stress, people are rarely at their best and more conflict may occur. Be firm about the values that guide how people interact with each other, but within these, give people time and grace as we’re all learning together. There will be bad days, good days and better days.

Value. Let people know they are valued. Some companies are making the mistake of inviting people back to the office based on who is “essential” or “nonessential” in their business. What they mean, of course, is whether people’s essential work must be accomplished in the office. Be sure your messaging reinforces everyone’s value. Rather than an “A” group and a “B” group who are invited back (who wants to be a “B player”?), one company is using colors: the “blue group” or the “yellow group.” Avoid the unintended messages that may cause people to feel like “haves” or “have-nots.”  

Culture Is Key

Culture. Organizational culture is “the way things get done around here” and “what people do when no one is looking.” It is context for people’s actions and decisions and one of the most significant competitive advantages you have. People can copy your marketing or your product, and they can access your customers, but it’s nearly impossible to mirror your culture. The way you the way you lead the change will both reflect and shape your culture. It will matter if you are heavy-handed and authoritarian in your leadership approach or are short-sighted and narrow-minded in your decisions. And it will matter if you demonstrate you value people and balance the needs of the business, or if you engage people and enhance their trust.

The uncertainty and volatility of the pandemic could lead you to act in a way that isn’t your best, but the choices that guide the organization through this change will have an incredible long-term influence. Your character is demonstrated through difficult times and company culture is similar. The window to your organization’s values, integrity and its leaders’ ability to navigate this crisis will have a lasting impact. It’s a lot of pressure, yes, but it’s also a lot of opportunity to influence a bright future.

Managing change is tricky, but rarely more challenging than when the whole world is changing at the same time. Clarify your why, communicate your compelling vision and set clear expectations for people. Reduce the real and perceived costs of change and provide choice and control for employees. Engage people and motivate them based on their relationships with each other. Ensure you’re demonstrating empathy and valuing people and recognize how your actions and decisions will impact your culture. Change management is hard. It will continue to be hard. But done well, it is an unmatched opportunity to motivate people and create a positive future for your company.

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Change Management Strategies For Getting Back To Work: 10 Ways To Ensure Success
Change Management: What the Coronavirus Crisis Revealed

Change Management: What the Coronavirus Crisis Revealed

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Effective change management can help organizations pivot quickly, decisively, and effectively, even when—perhaps especially when—unforeseen circumstances strike. And while each business is unique, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel.

Accounting firms are certainly familiar with change. Market dynamics, shifting stakeholder expectations, regulatory rule-making—all this and more compel the profession to be agile.

Traditionally, many companies tackle change on a project by project basis. But the pace has picked up in recent years, exposing a potential capability gap when it comes to managing change. At Deloitte, we realized our Audit & Assurance business needed to consider a different approach if we wanted to adapt to future opportunities and challenges. Here’s what we did—and what the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has revealed about it.

A response to disruption

For us, the catalyst to rethink our approach to change management was digital disruption in the 2010s. As it took hold, we found ourselves dealing with change almost constantly. No longer was it practical to assemble and onboard a project team for every new digital initiative—and there were lots of them.

So we decided to create an in-house change management capability. This has provided several benefits over a project-based approach, including:

  • Readiness to execute
  • An active sphere of influence within the organization
  • A deep understanding of the business—including strategy, operations, and culture

With those outcomes in mind, we built a dedicated team of change management specialists to support our Audit & Assurance business. Since then, a capability that started out as a response to digitizing our business has also helped us address changes in accounting and auditing standards, evolving stakeholder demands, and other sweeping developments. But when the COVID-19 crisis struck, it put our change management team to one of its greatest tests.

The escalating COVID-19 threat

Like other organizations, our audit teams ordinarily work in an office-based setting, often onsite at the client’s location. In a matter of days, this decades-long delivery model gave way to a virtual working environment—for us and clients—as the COVID-19 threat escalated.

This kind of transition would have been much more challenging without a change management capability. Our change management specialists were able to implement much of what was needed on very short notice, including equipping professionals to effectively work from home. At the same time, we developed a multi-dimensional task force to resolve emerging issues and opened communication channels to help keep people informed: newsletters, online resource centers, twice-weekly webcasts, a mobile news app to share real-time updates, and an emergency support email box. We also launched a social media-based photo campaign and online crowdsourcing site to keep our people feeling connected.

The result, we were able to carry out our work despite extraordinary circumstances with minimal impact to client delivery. Once again, a capability we had invested in years earlier, and continue to invest in, helped us step up in a way we hardly expected.

Fundamentals of the capability

The COVID-19 crisis illustrates how a change management capability can help companies cope with dramatic shifts in the business environment. But it also highlights important attributes that a capability like this should have. Among them:

Executive-level attention. With a seat at the executive committee table, our change management team was on top of and in tune with leadership’s thinking right from the start. That positioned the team to execute at any point, even as more of our engagement teams and clients felt the impact of COVID-19 and executive guidance evolved in tandem.

Sensitivity to timing. The COVID-19 crisis broke just as engagement teams were completing audits for calendar year and first-quarter filers. Because of the timing, it was imperative that any change took place seamlessly and with minimal interruption to our clients and professionals.

An open dialogue with key stakeholders. Businesses andorganizations around the world are working through their response plans to the pandemic, such as how to transition to a virtual workforce and manage filing deadlines in a virtual environment. A change management function should stay in close contact with key stakeholders (clients and regulators in our case) and develop a plan for varied scenarios.

These attributes have a common thread, which is to look across the extended enterprise to see where changes might land. Any given initiative has its stakeholders, and they can be more fragmented than you might expect. Internally, for example, leaders may need different information from employees. An effective change management capability reflects these nuances and shapes itself to meet the demand by tailoring actions and communications to be impactful for the intended audience.

Key considerations of change management

With that, what should you consider as you set up a change management capability of your own? Here are three principles to start with:

Collaborate. Bring training, communications, and other relevant functions into your change management structure. All likely have a deep understanding of your organization’s culture relative to receiving, absorbing, and acting on information and have developed practices—formal or informal—that can help a given change to take hold. And don’t expect these functions to wait for orders—they can be much more productive when they have input into what the business is trying to achieve.

Monitor. Carefully define your desired outcomes upfront. Goals can be qualitative (such as employee awareness, buy-in, and behavioral change) as well as quantitative (such as training attendance, speed of execution, and performance improvements). The key is to set up ways to measure them, then track your progress throughout the transformation effort.

Refine. It’s critical to be highly attuned to the sentiment across your organization and remain flexible in your approach to driving change. Are people truly embracing what you’re trying to implement? How do they feel about it? What are the pain points? Subjective as it seems, feedback like this can help you refine your change management capability so it can address a growing portfolio of use cases, new business models, and competitive realities. 

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How Does Organizational Culture Affect Change?

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Culture is one among many factors that influence a company’s ability to change.

A few of these include:

  • Culture
  • Leadership
  • External circumstances, such as customer needs and desires

Among many other things.

When developing an organizational change project, change practitioners should examine all of these factors in detail.

Each factor will have a different weight, depending on the organization’s unique circumstances.

Let’s look at some of these factors in more detail.

Factors that Affect Organizational Change

From business processes to culture to finance, there are many things that can influence change projects … for better or for worse.

Change managers must review all of these before beginning a change project. 

Here are some of the most important:

  • Customer Needs – What do the customers actually want? If your products or services don’t meet their needs, for instance, it is time to evolve your product to meet those demands.
  • Competitor Pressure – If competitors are pushing forward, developing better products, and creating better value propositions, then it’s time to adapt.
  • Executive Leadership – Executive leadership can either spearhead change … or hold it back. When the time is right for change, it’s critical to obtain executive support early on. 
  • Budget – Budget is one of the biggest concerns for any business endeavor. It can influence change projects in general, as well as programs aimed at cultural change.
  • Tools and Technology – Technology can facilitate change, or even be the central focus of change. But it can also become a barrier to organizational change, especially when employees are reluctant or budgets are tight. 
  • Existing Business Processes – Inertia and clinging to the familiar can keep people locked into old processes for far too long. This, in turn, hurts a business’s adaptability and agility.
  • Culture – Culture also plays a pivotal role in any change project … people can either support change with enthusiasm, be apathetic, or actively resist change.

Though all of these factors play critical roles in any change project, culture remains a top focus for change managers.

How Does Organizational Culture Affect Change?

Some of the aforementioned factors that affect change are very black and white.

You either have the budget for change or you don’t.

Customers either need a new feature or they don’t.

When people become involved, though, the situation becomes more complex.

Employee support depends on:

  • What’s in it for them – that is, how they will benefit from a change
  • How much extra work is involved
  • How the end result will impact their jobs, their salaries, their long-term career prospects, and so forth
  • Their general attitudes towards change, new ideas, and new things

This last point is where culture comes in – because it can be viewed as the “central pillar” that strongly influences many of these other factors.

What Makes a “Good” Corporate Culture?

There is no such thing as a “good” corporate culture – any more than there is such a thing as a “good” flavor of ice cream.

It’s all relative.

One corporation may be competitive, driven, and fast-paced.

Another may be relaxed, social, and slow-paced.

However, today’s marketplace is continually changing. This means that corporations geared towards continual change will be more likely to survive and succeed in the coming years.

To see why, let’s set the stage by describing today’s economic climate:

  • Technology is causing massive, global disruption. New technological innovations, from the internet to the mobile phone, are fueling disruptive changes. A short time ago, both of these were barely conceivable – but today, businesses that aren’t using both are at a strong competitive disadvantage.
  • Innovative companies that can disrupt and transform are those most likely to succeed and dominate. Today’s top companies are all technology companies. Google, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook – in just a few short years, they have eclipsed the former global leaders. This seismic shift demonstrates the massive power behind technology and innovation.
  • In such a fast-paced environment, speed and adaptability rule. Speed is “the ultimate weapon” according to DocuSign chairman Keith Krach. Organizations that are the fastest at innovating, producing, and releasing into the marketplace are those that can overtake their obsolete competitors.

Now, as mentioned, there is no such thing as a “good” or “bad” corporate culture.

However, it’s pretty clear that we live in an economy driven by technology, innovation, and speed.

And it should also be pretty clear which cultural attributes will positively influence cultural change.

Redesigning Your Corporate Culture for Continuous Change

Given the context illustrated above, change managers would be well-advised to inculcate attributes such as:

  • Innovation – Creating a culture of innovation means inviting participation from everyone. And it means using the right systems, mechanisms, and tools to boost innovation.
  • Agility – Agile software development has given rise to agile change management, agile management, and other agile disciplines. Inculcate these systems into your work environment and the culture will gradually shift to reflect those changes.
  • Openness to Change – Prudence is wise in some circumstances. But risk averse attitudes can easily prevent you from money-making investments – the kind that can help your company stay competitive and successful.
  • Speed – Acclimate employees to speed, so they become more alert and ready for spur-of-the-moment changes. A culture ready to act, react, and deliver will help contribute to an organization that is able to deliver products and services more quickly.
  • Digital Literacy – Digital literacy is a must in today’s world. Companies should create a “digital culture” that encourages digital fluency. And, as with the other characteristics mentioned here, the best way to cultivate this attribute is by introducing systems that cultivate it.
  • Lifelong Learning – It is becoming widely recognized that lifelong learning will become a prerequisite for the workforce of the future. Enterprises that integrate employee training solutions into their business will create a workforce that is more productive, relevant, engaged, and open to change.

It is worth noting that these characteristics don’t necessarily conflict with other attributes of corporate culture.

A company can still be social, relaxed, extra-competitive, and so forth.

However, in today’s economy, change is continual. 

The attributes covered above will contribute to corporate cultures that support, enable, and fuel that change.

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How Does Organizational Culture Affect Change?