April 21, 2020

Adjusting strategic direction with change on the horizon

by Wendy Ryan in Change Management

You have a strategic plan for your organization or your team, but what happens when an unplanned change is upon you and you need to adjust the course?

Communication is key but will be unsuccessful if it lacks direction or a cohesive message. That’s why it’s so important to think about who is delivering the message and how it’s being delivered.

From the moment you begin to plan or implement any type of organizational change, first clarify your objectives. Think of your objectives as the roadmap that will guide you to your intended destination.

Then talk to the people who are impacted by the change and those who are leading the change. Sometimes those two audiences are actually the same person. For example, the vice president of a department that’s being phased out of the organization. The VP is being laid off but must also help the organization transition the department’s team members out. It’s a difficult position for the VP to be in but with a lot of 1:1 communication, it’s not impossible to make the change go well.

Ideally, your change management strategy should include the following five components:

An overarching goal or intended outcome of the process.

At the end of the change, what will the organization look like? What will be different? If the change is planned and has a specific outcome, you may know the end game. If the change is in response to a current crisis, you may not be able to establish clear goals yet. Communicate this information to teams, employees and other stakeholders and then keep them informed as you move forward.

Clear, measurable objectives related to the overall outcome.

As part of your planning process, you’ll need to identify exactly what needs to be done. These should be measurable so you and your team knows when you’ve achieved the objectives. If your outcome is more qualitative in nature, identify the key objectives that will move you forward toward that outcome and communicate them to your team members. You’ll also want to let people know if you’re operating in a more dynamic environment than before and that you may need to readjust or revisit the objectives or outcomes more frequently than you did in the past. Commit to providing frequent and regular updates to keep them informed.

A realistic timeline for achieving your objectives.

Most organizations are regularly experiencing some sort of change or more typically, navigating more than one at a time. That’s what keeps them relevant in the market and is part of being in growth mode. But too many overlapping change initiatives can also be counter-productive to organizational performance. Let employees know when to expect change sprints so they can plan for them. Build in some short pauses now and again so people can recharge and prepare for the next sprint.

Regular benchmarks or check-ins to evaluate your progress toward your goal.

Checking in is essential to help team leaders and members feel more at ease with what’s going on. They want to feel like they are part of the process and communicating with them regularly will help them to feel like they have a voice and a place to make their concerns known.

An outline of strategic communication to keep all stakeholders aligned.

Again, communication is key. The more you talk to your stakeholders, the more successful change is likely to be for them–and for you. With the right communication strategy, you will improve your chances of getting buy-in so team members are more likely to take a productive vs. disruptive role in the change process.

Disruptive change is inevitable in the life cycle of any business, whether or not you have a clear strategic direction already in place. Responding to disruption, adapting your plans and communicating your response to the right people at the right time is the key to coming out the other side successfully. Implementing change effectively – whether of the sudden, disruptive variety or the less sudden, more intentional variety, is a long-term process, sometimes taking two years or more. Above all, you want changes to stick for as long as they are intended to.

For help with this process, you may need to start by looking within yourself as a leader. Are you ready to lead big change? Find out how to be a better leader with my 8-part video series by entering your email address below.

One Comment

  1. Jared Dickinson
    April 28, 2020 at 5:12 pm

    Great insights to pass along! Thank you!

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