Seven Success Factors of Organizational Change Management

Seven Success Factors of Organizational Change Management

In this blog, I want to present two examples of organizational change management. The examples differ in detail but highlight what I think are some key strategies in managing change.

To start, below are specific factors that can be helpful in determining the success of any change management process.


1. Communication

  • Do people understand why the change is occurring?
  • Do people understand the process and their opportunities to provide input?
  • Is the communication proactive – not reactive?

2. Clarity of Vision

  • What is the envisioned change? How will people or society benefit if the change is achieved?
  • How does the vision translate into benefits? What about the costs?
  • What will remain the same? What do people not need to worry about?

3. Sufficient Resources

  • Is there sufficient time for people to meet and resolve the issues that need to be resolved?
  • Are there people to guide and facilitate the process?
  • Are there sufficient resources to implement the plan?

4. Clarity of Roles

  • Are the right people at the table planning the change?
  • Is there a clear decision-making process?
  • Are other roles clear? E.g. the roles of external stakeholders

5. Strong Champions

  • Are the leaders of the organization(s) involved and supportive of this change?
  • Are they prepared to champion the change, even when the going gets tough?
  • Are other people with broad influence also championing the change?

6. Engagement

  • Are staff, volunteers and others who will implement the change engaged in developing recommendations?
  • Are key outside groups and stakeholders also engaged?
  • Are the people who might be most resistant being engaged?

7. Action Planning

  • Is there an action plan (or plans) that documents who’s doing what in a given time frame to achieve the change?
  • Is the action plan frequently monitored for progress and updated to stay current?
  • Does the team responsible for implementing the change “own” the action plan?

Here’s the first example:

A year ago, our firm was asked to facilitate a change management process in Southern California. The goal was to create a new governance structure for a public utility company that served a diverse array of customers and stakeholders (cities, counties, and rural areas).

One of our initial steps was to assess: Which of the seven factors are present or are we reasonably confident will be in place? And which factors are not present and we’re unsure of?

When we conducted our assessment of the seven factors, we realized that it was two factors – #2, clarity of vison and #5, strong champions – that were a major concern. While everyone had an idea of what they wanted, a shared vision for governance had not emerged. And, not surprisingly, there were no strong champions. People were all over the place, trying to figure out what was in their best interest.

We spent two months with the utility’s publicly elected board of directors focusing on what governance meant – and discussing the pros and cons of different governance models. The key question was: What are the pros and cons of your current way of doing business versus other governance models? How does an elected board best meet the needs of customers and ratepayers?

A key breakthrough occurred at a board workshop in which we shared an assessment of how the CEO and management team viewed the effectiveness of the board’s current governance approach. In a nutshell, the assessment showed that senior level and middle managers spent an average of 15 percent of their time responding to requests, ideas, and directions given by individual Board members.

This triggered a healthy discussion about scale – and the extent to which meeting board members requests should be a management priority over other activities. “Obviously,” said the CEO, “you are the elected members. But it would be better if you set direction as a board and then let us manage the day-to-day business. And if you have concerns or ideas, then please send them to me, and I will either pass them on to get addressed or let you know why we can’t do it.”

We shared an example of board governance that embodied this “unity of control” principle. The board voted to adopt that system. While it took us several more months of facilitated discussions to hammer out the details, in the end, the board voted to adopt a new governance framework and related governance policies. Everyone agreed that it was the facilitated process that enabled them to reach a mutually agreeable solution and for the change to occur.

Here’s the second example:

A non-profit health care organization in Northern California asked us to help them instill a culture of improved goal setting and accountability. John, the CEO, wanted the organization to become more forward thinking and strategic in its goal setting. He recognized that this would require a significant shift in culture, starting at the executive team level.

We proposed to facilitate this cultural shift by working first with John and his eight-person executive team to build a strong level of commitment for the envisioned shift. Once there was strong commitment at that level, we would then work at the next two levels of directors and managers to facilitate the desired change.

As a first step, we facilitated an all-day meeting with his executive team. The focus was: What do we mean by improved, more strategic goal setting? What are some examples of what we mean? Of what we don’t mean? What are the envisioned benefits?

Margaret, the CFO, offered one example: “We say we are all about improving health care outcomes. Yet we don’t hold actually ourselves accountable to what happens to our patients. We don’t have any consistent long-term tracking ability. We need to invest in that.”

Shannon, who was in charge of patient care, offered a counter thought: “Given the fragmented health care system, we don’t have any control over long-term health outcomes. But we can do a much better job following up with patients in the six months after discharge to see whether they are adhering to their prescribed regimens. We know that in the two months after discharge, we can see a distinct separation between patients who take their medications regularly and those who don’t – for whatever reason. We can improve those outcomes. And there are significant value-based payments we can get if we can demonstrate improvements in that area.”

The discussion became very lively, with people offering different points of view. “We don’t know that the investment will be worth it,” said one executive. “The value-based payments may only cover half the cost.”

“Yes,” said another, “but we are a non-profit, and we have the financial capacity. And this feels like the right thing to do.”

“How will this tie to our bonus structure?” asked another director. “Can we incentivize our teams based on both the extent of our follow-up and the interventions we make?”

This triggered even more discussion until we asked: “Let’s step back a bit. How does this example affect your thinking about goal-setting in general? Keeping in mind John’s goal of a cultural shift, in which the organization is more forward thinking and strategic in setting goals, how does this example inform your thinking?”

“We’re not sure,” they replied. “We don’t know whether we’re capable of translating a far-reaching strategic goal like this into action.”

At this point, John stepped in and asked the team whether they were committed to consistent patient tracking. “Let’s find out if we can be both strategic in our thinking and in our actions,” he said.

The team agreed to make it a focus. They dubbed it “the Velcro plan” based on the notion that they would “stick to” their patients for six months. With our facilitation help, the team broke the goal into different activities and business processes. Ultimately they agreed on the need for three separate divisions – IT, the call center, and patient care coordination – to work together to make the new patient tracking process work. For example, the call center took responsibility for conducting the follow-up communications with patients, but it needed both new IT tools and changes in patient protocols to make it work.

Ultimately, the Velcro plan worked – and it cost less than expected. Just as important, the team learned that strategic goal setting was something they could do – and needed to do – regularly. And that was a significant organizational change.

Want to learn more?

If you’re looking to learn more about managing change and if you’re ready to take your organization to the next level in other ways, contact us to speak with a consultant.

Eric Douglas

Eric Douglas is the senior partner and founder of Leading Resources Inc., a consulting firm that focuses on developing high-performing organizations. For more than 20 years, Eric has successfully helped a wide array of government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and corporations achieve breakthroughs in performance. His new book The Leadership Equation helps leaders achieve strategic clarity, manage change effectively, and build a leadership culture.

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