𝗢𝗿𝗴𝗮𝗻𝗶𝘇𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻𝗮𝗹 𝗖𝗵𝗮𝗻𝗴𝗲: 𝗙𝗮𝗰𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗬𝗼𝘂𝗿 𝗙𝗲𝗮𝗿𝘀 𝘁𝗼 𝗟𝗲𝘃𝗲𝗹 𝗨𝗽
Updated: Jul 7
“Change is hard because people overestimate the value of what they have and underestimate the value of what they may gain by giving that up.”
- James A. Belasco and Ralph C. Stayer
Tactically, altering how the business operates and functions can be a rigorous process. Emotionally, 𝗲𝘃𝗲𝗿𝘆𝗼𝗻𝗲 𝗶𝗻𝗶𝘁𝗶𝗮𝗹𝗹𝘆 𝗳𝗲𝗮𝗿𝘀 𝗰𝗵𝗮𝗻𝗴𝗲.
Startups can go through pivots. Even when change is highly desired, it’s human nature to resist. Change forces us to break habits and feel the stress of uncertainty.
𝗣𝗹𝗮𝗻 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝗦𝘂𝗰𝗰𝗲𝘀𝘀
Resources, roles, responsibilities, and expectations drastically change. Often, the entire company and many people are impacted.
In order to apply organizational change properly, take these steps:
𝘐𝘥𝘦𝘯𝘵𝘪𝘧𝘺 𝘢 𝘤𝘭𝘦𝘢𝘳 𝘯𝘦𝘦𝘥. Identify the driving force, the desired changes, and the expected outcome. Also, admit the risk of not changing.
𝘖𝘸𝘯 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘤𝘩𝘢𝘯𝘨𝘦. Describe why change is important on a personal level to encourage commitment during stress. Designate someone to coordinate resources and vigorously communicate throughout.
𝘔𝘰𝘵𝘪𝘷𝘢𝘵𝘦 𝘴𝘵𝘢𝘬𝘦𝘩𝘰𝘭𝘥𝘦𝘳𝘴. Communicate to everyone impacted (team, clients, partners, and vendors) and understand their motivations. Take time to address all questions even before starting the process.
𝘈𝘱𝘱𝘭𝘺 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘳𝘪𝘨𝘩𝘵 𝘳𝘦𝘴𝘰𝘶𝘳𝘤𝘦𝘴. Ensure teams have the skills, tools, and capacity for success. Expect additional work on top of the regular functions and accommodate (e.g. pause other projects).
𝘊𝘰𝘯𝘴𝘪𝘥𝘦𝘳 𝘢𝘯 𝘰𝘶𝘵𝘴𝘪𝘥𝘦𝘳. Fundamentally, it’s hard to change*. An outsider can challenge current process and provide alternative solutions, and also improves accountability.
𝘛𝘳𝘢𝘤𝘬 𝘱𝘳𝘰𝘨𝘳𝘦𝘴𝘴 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘢𝘥𝘢𝘱𝘵. Set expectations beforehand and measure regularly. However, if delays happen, take the time to revisit the long-term goals and to support the team.
𝘊𝘦𝘭𝘦𝘣𝘳𝘢𝘵𝘦 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘸𝘪𝘯𝘴. Since the outcomes may take a long time, recognize significant progress and great ideas along the way.
𝗪𝗵𝗲𝗻 𝗧𝗵𝗶𝗻𝗴𝘀 𝗚𝗼 𝗪𝗿𝗼𝗻𝗴
Despite the best intentions and efforts, things can still go wrong. According to a McKinsey study**, 70% of company transformations fail. Here are a number of potential challenges and remedies:
𝙂𝙚𝙩 𝙙𝙞𝙨𝙩𝙧𝙖𝙘𝙩𝙚𝙙. While organizational change is meaningful, it can be slow, tempting high-energy founders to focus on other areas.
Remedy – find someone else responsible, persistent, and patient to own the project.
𝙁𝙖𝙞𝙡 𝙩𝙤 𝙘𝙤𝙣𝙣𝙚𝙘𝙩. Stakeholders are not convinced of the value of change causing issues with engagement and support.
Remedy – offer multiple channels for feedback, including groups, emails, and 1:1 meetings.
𝙇𝙤𝙨𝙚 𝙢𝙤𝙢𝙚𝙣𝙩𝙪𝙢. Even after you planned and implemented effectively, the change may feel like it’s taking forever.
Remedy – recognize frustrations while keep educating people on the value and progress.
𝙉𝙚𝙚𝙙 𝙧𝙚𝙨𝙤𝙪𝙧𝙘𝙚𝙨. On top of normal work, the team may demand extra resources.
Remedy – invest in success by getting temporary resources while limiting transition time to manage costs.
𝙎𝙪𝙛𝙛𝙚𝙧𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙨𝙩𝙧𝙚𝙨𝙨. All of the above can negatively impact people’s mental health. Transitions cause ambiguity and exhaustion.
Remedy – address concerns both in your words and by actions (e.g. an extra day off to celebrate the transition).
Organizational change is powerful across strategy and tactics, a tough combination for most leaders. The strain needs to be matched with outsized attention, resources, and patience.
The right financial, planning, and mental investments in organizational change lead to incredible long-term benefits.
* If you consider change on a personal level, top athletes and leaders rely on coaches and trainers to build and repeat success.
** McKinsey study: https://mck.co/3q7mcd8
Photo by Sammie Chaffin who can be found here: instagram.com/sammie.chaffin