Written by Yee-Wei Ooi on January 21, 2019.
This article was published in the January Issue of NZ Management Magazine.
Companies often approach organisational change in terms of structure, such as managerial reporting lines, but what they really want is a change of behaviours between people.
Identifying whether organisational change is necessary comes down to assessing whether your company actions are aligned with your overall goals and objectives.
Organisational change is about adapting behaviour to better achieve company goals and objectives. It's often a result of change of leadership, or confusion around accountability for certain objectives or goals.
But when the need for change doesn't make itself obvious, how can businesses identify when it's time to do things differently, and when it's not? In short, if your organisational behaviours aren't aligned with your company objectives, it's time.
WHEN TO START
Companies should look to organisational change when an issue has been identified and they want a different outcome. The purpose of change is to align companywide efforts and make sure that everyone is working toward the same end goal. A lot of the time, the way a company operates is based on history - it's been done that way for the last five or ten years, so why change it? When an issue crops up, organisations realise that it's time to look at how they can work more efficiently.
One of the reasons that change often comes with new leadership is that they don't have the historical knowledge about why the organisation works as it does. New leaders are looking at problems and solutions through a different lens, not clouded by past decisions. They come in ready to look at why certain processes are in place, and how they can be improved.
With new leadership also often comes a change in strategic direction. Whatever the reason, a new focus requires a discussion about how the entire organisation is going to move in the new direction together.
Another indicator that change is required is uncertainty around accountability. When conversations crop up about who is accountable for certain tasks and there's a lack of clarity, it's time to talk about who takes responsibility for what and how it fits in with the wider organisation.
Planning for organisational change aims to bring clarity as to what is needed, what will be achieved and when targets will be met. Often companies approach organisational change in terms of structure, such as managerial reporting lines, but what they really want is a change of behaviours between people.
Understanding what it is that teams are responsible for and the interaction between departments is the key to focusing and aligning objectives.
Ensuring that change is managed effectively requires involving as many people as possible in the discussion from the beginning - not just people at executive level or senior managers. People managing operations on a day-to-day basis should understand what the company is hoping to achieve and be given the opportunity to contribute to the conversation.
PROBLEMS WITH CHANGE
Two of the biggest problems with establishing organisational change, is when people involved at a senior level change, or when the executive board aren't in agreement with the suggested course of action.
No matter how well a plan is formulated, if the people at the top aren't on board, it's hard to see change through. However, when companies do see it through, they usually find they get to their end goal and manage to bring everyone along with them.
Failure to realise that changes need to be company wide is another downfall. Departmental change is hard to implement without looking at the organisation more widely. Whatever the outcome of departmental discussions, they have to collaborate with other teams, so it's often more efficient to start at the top and keep the organisation in sync.
Organisations need to implement change from the top, carefully identifying what needs to happen and what information is needed to formulate effective plans for change.