Key Issues of Change Management (at the Executive Level)

Organization and Change

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Jaap de Jonge
Editor, Netherlands

Key Issues of Change Management (at the Executive Level)

The ability to manage organizational change at a high level has become a crucial skill for executives. The times of simply aiming for organizational continuity and predictable earnings growth are gone.
Changes in the external environment, like new technologies and ways of communication, globalization of competition, and also the demand for more transparency and responsibility, are putting a lot of pressure and demand for change on organizations and on their top managers. At the same time, large-scale organizational change is utterly complex and demanding. Academics have developed an impressive list of methods, tools and approaches to manage organizational change on an expert level.
Without diving too deep in the details of these instruments for professionals, what key guiding principles of managing change should executives and top managers always bear in mind?
I recommend executives to focus on the arguably 3 most difficult aspects of organizational change:
  1. PEOPLE. Ultimately organizational change is all about humans. The human component is what makes any organizational change so complex, and will often determine if the change effort is successful or not. So select the very best people for the strategic change program and ensure all human aspects are planned and addressed early, carefully and systematically. Create and maintain involvement, participation and commitment of everyone and of all layers. More on Avoiding Resistance to Change.
  2. COMMUNICATION. Never assume the reasons for the change and the best direction are clear to everyone. Explicitly plan the entire communication effort early on. And communicate and keep communicating regularly on multiple levels, using multiple channels and two-directional (top down and bottom-up). More on Communicating a Strategic Vision.
  3. CULTURE. Company culture has multiple levels: explicit and implicit, visible and underlying. It involves things like shared history, values, beliefs, assumptions, perceptions, attitudes and behaviors. Because of these levels and aspects, culture is notoriously hard to change. That's why analyzing and addressing cultural aspects of the new ways of doing things is critical. Explicitly and continuously. More on Changing a Company Culture.
Source: Jones J., Aguirre D., and Calderone M., 2004, "10 Principles of Change Management - Tools and techniques to help companies transform quickly", strategy+business.

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