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12 Steps to Organizational Change: A Checklist

March 28, 2014

No matter what you do, or what industry you’re in, chances are that your organization either needs to change (due to growth, or poor performance, or to increase office space, etc.), or is about to change (due to an acquisition or merger, or a new CEO taking over, or to adapt to ever-changing markets, etc.). And while it’d be FOOLISH to try and stop change, there are things you can (actually, must) do to ensure that the change process goes smoothly and leads to positive outcomes.

Use this 12-step checklist to lead successfully through any organizational change:

Identify: Your first step is to identify what is being changed or what needs to be changed.

Business case: Next, create your business case to justify the need for this change. This is critical and should also describe what the consequences would be if you don’t make the change.

Communicate: Make sure that everyone on your executive team understands the business case and the need for change. Communicate a clear and consistent message from all members of the executive team.

Enlist stakeholders: Ask and answer the following questions: Who are the people who will be directly and indirectly impacted by this change? Where do they stand in this process? Are they aware that the change is needed? Did they suggest it? After you have answered these questions, determine where you need them to be in this process. Are they going to be directly involved in the change implementation? Will you need their consent to do something?

Put together a change team: This is the team that will help develop the change program and ensure its success. This team should include a mix of people from across the organization and does NOT need to be run by a member of your executive team.

Communicate/paint the picture for change: This step occurs throughout the change process and it is one of the most important. Let people in the organization know what is happening. People have a much easier time dealing with change when they know what is changing, what is staying the same, what they can expect during the process, and what things will look like after. We emphasize communication so much because it’s absolutely critical to any successful change initiative.

Training: Are there extra training or development opportunities that can be included in this process? If people are being moved around and new responsibilities are being assigned, offer training to these people. Spend extra time working with managers and supervisors on how to identify employees who are having a hard time with the change. Run a course for first-time managers to help them learn how to manage their teams through the change. These efforts can be done in-house, through a consulting firm, or through online training.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate: By keeping people in the loop, you reduce the fear of the unknown and put people in a much more respective place.

Change: That’s the whole point, right? Make the change happen while communicating with your employees. An open dialogue will help make the process smoother.

Check in: How is the change process going in the organization? Get a pulse for your people, your business, and your surroundings.

Follow through: Make sure the change actually happens. Many organizations start a change, begin to implement it, and then lose momentum as other tasks take priority. If this happens too often, people stop getting behind change because they think they will be wasting their effort.

Reinforce the change: This is where many companies drop the ball. You have already worked so hard on this change. Don’t forget to remind your people of how far they have come and what has been accomplished. You can do this at a major event—in person or virtually—or through a series of communications, depending on your resources and organizational structure. Recognizing and celebrating what’s been accomplished is critical to sustain the momentum.


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