One Step at a Time: A Look at Organizational Change

I still find it amazing when I’m speaking with leadership of a business or organization about either joining their team or consulting their expectations to provide detailed plans on how I can revolutionize their organization and make some immediate changes for the better. I understand the urgency of moving your organization forward especially if you’re in the position of needing some immediate change. My answer is traditionally until I know and understand all the moving parts; I’m not prepared to give you detailed plans on change in your organization. During our conversation, I may lead some questions based on information I’m hearing, but that’s only me seeking more information to understand better the operational position the organization is in.

One of the most important things to keep in mind when making significant changes to the operations of an organization is that it’s not as simple as just making a change. When you change something, it affects people’s day-to-day ability to do their job. Also, if you don’t clearly vet the change and for some reason you become unavailable or leave the position, you’re now leaving the organization more vulnerable then when you arrived. So it’s essential to understand the affects your changes will have on all personnel and the organization. Here are my “baby” steps needed before I start to make actual recommendations to the organizational structure.

Step 1: Training

How can one start making changes to an organization without actually understanding the organization? For me, this means taking all available trainings the organization has to offer both organized trainings and trainings from the organization’s leaders. This will help you understand the organization and help you understand some of the moving parts to operations.

Step 2: Meetings

Once you feel like you have a good grasp on the organization (your training will always be on going), it’s important to start meeting with organization leaders and with staff members about operational items make their job run smoothly. From the frontline employee to the CEO, understanding what things are working well and what things cause challenges to their day-to-day workload. By understanding people’s jobs from an array of positions, it will help you determine whether making a change is in benefit to all parties involved. One employee may thing something needs to be changed, and yet it could highly affect another employee. Get the big picture.

Step 3: First Draft

By this time, I finally have enough information to start putting together some thoughts on how to make the operations of the organization run more efficiently. This should be done in lateral with day-to-day operations you probably already started handling. You should be able to outline the critical points that need to be addressed with timelines on each project. What items need to be done congruently or can be done laterally.

Step 4: Stakeholders Meeting

Presenting your first draft to all stakeholders of individuals the changes can affect is essential. Get feedback and make sure everyone is on the same page. Don’t just make the changes after the first round of meetings. This is one of the biggest mistakes done by operation professionals. Once your plan is complete, getting buy-in and understanding will only better prepare your changes for success.

Step 5: The Change

Once you have received feedback on your draft, then you should be prepared to put together a final plan. Make sure all stakeholders review the final plan and sign off on it.

These are the baby steps to making changes in an organization. I find it nearly impossible to recommend detailed plans during a first meeting when you have yet to understand what the challenges are. The next time you’re interviewing someone to take on operations in your organization, or you’re on the other side interviewing for an operations position, be honest about what can be discussed. Talk about previous experience and collect more information.

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