Managing an Organizational Change Program

Organizations should continuously monitor their external environmental to determine what changes have occurred that may trigger a need to alter the key design components of organizational structure and culture.  For example, changes in technology, customer requirements, economic factors or competition can all change the landscape for an organization and adaptation is necessary for survival.  In order for organizational change to be effective a formal change program should be created in advance to ensure that members of the organization are fully informed of the changes and that they understand why change is required and how it will impact them and the entire organization.  A change program should incorporate mechanisms for obtaining feedback and constantly reinforcing the changes given that it is often difficult to change accepted behaviors and ways of conducting business.

  • Has a customized change management program been prepared?  The change management program should take into account the specific characteristics of the proposed change and the history and culture of the organization.

  • Has consideration been given to how the individual members of the organization will react to the proposed changes and how their day-to-day activities for, and interaction with, the organization will be impacted?  Consideration of these questions should guide decisions about supporting mechanisms such as communications and training.

  • Have the lead sponsors for the change initiative been identified and are they at the appropriate level within the organization to be effective?  Sponsors should be active and visible leaders of the change initiative with authority to make and monitor all necessary funding and organizational design decisions.

  • Does the change management plan include an effective strategy for communicating with members and external stakeholders of the organization?  An effective communication plan will be targeted to appropriate audiences, rely on various communication channels (e.g., meetings, face-to-face conversations, newsletters, presentations, Intranet Q&A, etc.) and provide for feedback to ensure that the change initiative is understood.

  • Does the communications program include clear answer to key member questions such as “why are we making this change” and “what will happen if we don’t make this change”?  Members may find the broader vision of organization leaders to be interesting; however, they are usually most concerned about what it all means for them personally—another implicit question that each member has is “what’s in it for me”.  An effort should be made to preserve and honor the good things of the past even if changes are now thought to be necessary.

  • Have managers and supervisors been involved in development and implementation of the change management program?  Managers and supervisors are crucial to success of any change program because they have close relationships with those that report to them and are best situation to manage how their direct reports experience and respond to the proposed changes.

  • Does the change management program include adequate training for managers and supervisors?  The important role of managers and supervisors has been described above and it is essential that they be given the tools necessary to become and remain effective advocates of the change process.

  • Does the change management program include strategies and plans for handling resistance that may arise from within the organization?  A distinction can and should be made between proactive strategies—which involve anticipating in advance which issues will be raised by members and crafting responses before the program is initiated—and reactive strategies—which include pre-established policies for reacting to unforeseen objections that arise once the program has begun.

  • Has the organization established systems that will facilitate collection and analysis of feedback and measurement of progress toward the initial goals of the change program?  Before the program is launched the goals should be clearly defined in ways that permit objective measurement and feedback tools should be created and tested.

  • Does the change management program include plans for continuous reinforcement of the proposed changes?  Any change in the way that things are down within an organization takes a long time to be absorbed particularly when the change related to deeply embedded values and norms.  The program must take a long-term approach and include strategies for reinforcing the new values and norms that the leaders wish to implement.

This material will appear in Alan Gutterman’s publication entitled “Business Transactions Solutions” and is presented with permission of Thomson/West.  Copyright 2008 Thomson/West.  For more information or to order call 1-800-762-5272.  Alan Gutterman is the Founder/Principal of Gutterman Law & Business (, which publishes the Emerging Companies Blog and the Business Counselor Blog, and a Partner of The General Counsel LLC (




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