Are you ready for change?
Good practices of organizational change 

Working in organizations, we are all used to business clichés, such as “structure follows strategy”. Strategy is referred to as a concept of a long-term, coherent set of actions towards an audacious but achievable goal. And structure is referred to the field of organization, processes, and governance. As many organizations have witnessed a radical change of business context, many if not all organizations have been forced to adopt different strategies and are continuously looking for adaptions to their structure. You may even argue that the paradigm “strategy follows structure” might be more applicable. 

Now, at Fæbric we experience that most leaders stopped thinking about what really makes sense for their context and simple follow what is trending. From digital strategy, to agile transformation to design thinking, we all tend to do the same. Often without really understanding the underlying principles. We embrace the agile manifesto and believe that working in release trains will actually change the output of the people in the organization. 

 


Surely, you aim to: 

• Improve the effectivity in the way you work 

• Tailer to the evolving needs of customers and other stakeholders 

• Build a fit team ready to embrace all changes 

 


Many leaders and followers are trapped in the trough of disillusionment. In order to better understand why people feel that the structure changes do not live up to the expectation, we should take a look at the following directions:  

Technological revolution 
Contrary to 20 years ago where technology was hard to get and hard to implement, right now, every technology is easily accessible and available. Therefore, the challenge of getting a technology to work has shifted towards selecting the right technology and using it in a good way. We see that many people do not understand the capacity of technology that is available to them. The organization sticks to what it knows that works. 

Acceleration of uncertainties 
Due to the technological revolution, the best practices from the past work no longer in this ever-changing environment. This means that everything is being questioned: The way you make a budget, the way you make a forecast, the way you do sales, the way you do logistics, the way you do production. This means that everybody is searching and must reinvent themselves. The good news is that all resources to do so are available and affordable. The challenge is about how you can bend the available resources to your new reality.  

Agile is considered a structure 
In many situations agile is introduced as a way of work for teams. Even though digital is becoming more important and every company becomes a ‘software company’ the gravity of many companies does not evolve around development. However, agility (the goal of Agile) is much more than a way of work. It is a mind-set for teams and the leadership. Satisfied customers (or users) through early and continuous delivery of value, embracing change or regular reflection are principles that improve organizations. The question is how everyone adopts these principles in their daily work. At Fæbric we talk about this topic by using the Music Thinking cue AGILITY: The cue to decide how to work together in which constellations and when to do what. 

To act upon the directions described above and given the fact that organizational change is needed, we identified the following critical success factors of organizational change:  

Prepare the organization to change 
Before you start an organizational change project, it is important that you first take the time to shake off the existing structure. This can take up to one or two years. Thaw, change, freeze. Do not rush towards the solution. Say actively goodbye to your existing structure and global beliefs. Stimulate people to break free from their function, their function domain, their manager. You can do that by gradually adding stimuli to the organization. This is way more effective than trying to turn everything around at once.  

Understand why you should change 
One of the goals of adding stimuli to the organization is to create awareness around the organizational problems within the company. It is pointless to start an organizational change project if the majority of the people within the organization does not understand why the organization needs to change.  

Momentum to change 
By preparing the organization for change, creating awareness around the organizational problems and people start to understand why the organization should change, you are creating momentum. If you created momentum, you only need a final push to start an organizational change project. In writing, this final push is called the inciting incident. It is an episode, plot point or event that hooks the reader into the story. Screenwriting guru Syd Field describes it as ‘setting the story in motion’. What was the event that set the organizational change in motion? For example, the appointment of a new managing director. 

Transform communication experts into change agents 
The first thing you should change when starting an organizational change project: 
Less communication, more interaction. Do not communicate: “This is what we think and feel.” Therefore, the first thing you should do when starting an organizational change project is to help communication experts to transform into interaction agents and facilitate the feedback loop with all stakeholders. That is the first thing you should do: change the communication people. Thinking and pushing it on people by telling them is doomed to fail. 

There are no best practices 
One of the most important things to keep in mind is that there are no best practices regarding organizational change. You have to originally think about things and develop your own best practices. To do so, you need an iterative process with diverging and converging. Concentrate on your own organization and not on what other organizations already did, because we do not know if the same works for your organization. You need people that help and think along, instead of people that come with a mental model that they implement in your organization.  

Collaborative transformation 
We always prefer to do operate in a collaborative way, since it is more effective. However, with organizational change there is no choice but to do it in a collaborative way, since it affects you personally. There is nobody that says: “So much fun that somebody will tell me how I should behave and that I have no say in it!” The only approach to organizational change is collaborative transformation. That is the only best practice. 

Real organizational change is hard. It requires a thorough process of diverging and converging. Do not start an organizational change project if you are not ready for this process. Especially in uncertain times we advise against organizational change, since it will lead to automatic introspection while you need to be focused on all the external signals. At the same time, this is a paradox, because you often do need a change to get out of the mess.  

 


Do you still think that your organization is ready for change? Take a quick self-test for orientation. It takes one minute.  
 

 


Authors: Roy Scheerder, Christof Zürn, Xenia Zürn