Corporate Change Is Personal
Make no mistake, all corporate change is personal. It doesn’t matter whether the change benefits the company or what it promises to deliver. For anyone affected by the new ways of doing things, corporate change is personal.
And, the more the changes portend to disrupt the current state of how and why work gets done, the more personal the change will be.
Focus on Subcultures
When executives in charge of change begin to accept that change is personal, they will be far more successful in implementing their desired changes. We believe that a company’s subcultures make up the local organizational landscape. It is through these “tribes” of like-minded people with established norms of how work gets done that change can be most effectively facilitated.
In our experience, change occurs far more easily within small social systems made up of personal relationships than within a large organization that is viewed and treated by corporate leaders as one dimensional.
Change Resistance Is Broken Down
The best change leaders address change not as a mandate from the top but from a more personal point of view. They work with and through the tribes that are part of their organization. They actively involve local teams and incorporate their ideas into the change process and subsequent action steps.
Focus on the Purpose
Instead of crafting the change program in the executive suite and emerging with a list of what needs to be done, try instead to call together local teams and focus on the purpose of the change. Ensuing discussions can yield all sorts of innovative ideas on how to accomplish the objectives.
If, for instance, you as leader have determined that the manufacturing process needs to be streamlined in order to save money and stay profitable, bring your manufacturing teams together and ask them, “How can we save the company money?” They will quickly transform the purpose of change into ways they can improve their manufacturing process. They own the change and are engaged participants in the process rather than prisoners of the system.
Enroll Key Influencers
You know them – they’re the change champions who may not have functional or positional power but nevertheless do wield significant influence within their local tribe. These are the best ones to lead change at the local level. They can deliver the change message more effectively than what comes from the executive suite and can also listen to what is being said by their co-workers. They can be powerful allies in the change process.
Encourage Real Conversations
Try to set up regular sessions where the change is discussed from the local point of view. What is working? What is not? Where should we focus and how should we prioritize our efforts? How can we improve and speed up the change process so our purpose is met more quickly?
The Bottom Line
Organizational change does not always need to be painful and difficult. With an understanding that change is personal and best accomplished through small subcultures, you can overcome natural resistance through active involvement. Are you tackling the challenge of corporate change too broadly?
To learn more about effective organizational change, download 5 Science-Backed Lenses of Change Leadership
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