How to Let Small Changes Infect Big Organizational Change

Planned or not, change happens all the time. Have you considered that it’s the humans that have to change, not just the system that needs to change?

Organizational change is difficult and there’s been lots written on how it often fails. I’m not sure about ‘failure,’ but let’s save that for another time…

The systemic change plan:

Yes, a change plan, (or direction) is important. The organization needs clarity on how the goals, strategies, and broad actions necessary for change will actually happen. And a great communication plan helps. So, descending from the mountain with a change process helps support systemic change. Better still; engage your stakeholders in developing the change plan.

That said…

The small changes people plan (vs the planners). Things to consider:

A rigorous change plan can be an abstract and intimidating concept to most people. Perhaps they see what’s wanted, but can they see how to achieve the change? An old rule is that people have to see what’s in it for them (WIFM) – including the fear that they may not be with the organization for long. It’s helpful if they know their role in the process. And because change relies on new levels of collaboration, remember that everyone is trying to collaborate – just not each other’s way.

With lots of hard work the people in the organization may buy into the change, but at what level of consciousness?

All organizational change happens at the personal level. How do we get people to personally embrace and act on change?

In order to consciously adapt to new behaviours, people have to experience change in ways that resonate for them. So, training is useful, but it’s not the only answer to human change.

Organizational culture is often a fuzzy or abstract concept, or a statement of values that’s taken lightly. Can your organizational culture be more consciously understood and its role expressed in the plan?

Many new decisions – thousands of them – will have to take place. Will people see those decisions as a risk to themselves personally? Can we help them see that all decisions will be supported? And that some decisions will not ‘work,’ but are instead critical parts of the learning process?

Finally, when people worry about big changes they are often also concerned about small changes. Yet it’s the small changes that lead to the big shift. Help people make many small decisions to move forward.

Some Solution Focused questions to ask about that change plan you are working on:

# 1. What do we want to keep? What works (that we don’t want to disrupt by mistake)?   Do not skip lightly through this section. Break it down to the individual level.

# 2. Suppose the change happens, what will we be doing?   Illustrate the desired outcomes in terms of what people and relevant stakeholders will actually be doing. Sell them on that future, not the  goals. See it happening in stages.

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# 3. How will we enable people to make small changes leading to the big changes?   Take the pressure of having to make it happen all at once. Start someplace small where everyone can both participate and witness the change

What have I missed?