Strategizing for Change in Your Company

Big changes require a strategy. Anything that involves moving parts will benefit from pre-planning, and businesses involve a lot of moving parts. When implementing a big change at a company, leaders need to anticipate every stage of growth, every obstacle, and how that change will look years down the line.

Developing a strategy will vary based on the demands of a business and the goals the change is working towards. Every approach to developing a strategy has its pros and cons.

For example, hiring a consulting firm to develop the change strategy is a time-saver and grants access to experts, but it also leaves employees in the dark about why a change is happening, which may in turn lower their engagement.

Most leaders of change don’t make informed decisions about the approach they will take. Far too many leaders and teams jump in quickly and then muddle through a change project because they didn’t take the time to think through the implications of each approach.

Crafting a strong change strategy that suits the specific needs of an organization is time-intensive but well worth it. It’s always better to put extra resources into the planning process now than it is to spend even more resources fixing an off-course mission in the future.

Strategy, mission, and leadership.

Before coming up with the strategy to implement your change, first sit down and decide what kind of strategy is best suited for the needs and time constraints of your organization.

5 Factors to Clarify Change Strategy

Transitional versus Transformational

What is the nature of the change?

· Transitional changes are incremental, less complex, and typically involve changing only pieces of the business or processes (e.g., reorganizing one department).

o Pros: Quicker to implement and useful for smaller, more focused projects

o Cons: Ineffective if processes need major overhaul

· Transformational changes are highly complex and can impact many aspects of the business, such as process, structure, and culture (e.g., merging two businesses).

o Pros: Dramatic changes can occur at a foundational level

o Cons: Requires more time and resources

Top-Down versus Bottom-Up

Would this change benefit from more direction from the top or more participation throughout the business?

· Top-Down directives are solutions created by leaders for employees to receive and implement (e.g., software upgrade).

o Pros: Faster start-up time and allows a more strategic perspective

o Cons: Slower implementation and requires many engagement activities

· Bottom-Up involves multiple stakeholders from across the business who will be affected by the change (e.g., sustainability initiative).

o Pros: Allows for input and shaping of the solutions from those who experience the work, faster implementation, and better engagement

o Cons: Slower start-up time and requires strong organizational integration

Light Plan versus Rigorous Plan

Is it better to do a little planning up front and refine as you go or think through all the details of the initiative and create a thorough plan?

· Light Plan strategies involve initial plans that are created in the beginning but refined during implementation.

· Rigorous Plans require focusing energy and resources at the beginning of the change project for thorough planning, involvement, communication, etc.

Straightforward versus Complex Design

Is the project well-defined, or do solutions need to develop as understanding evolves over time?

· Straightforward planning involves an easily understood change vision with defined beginning, middle, and end phases and specific steps to achieve them. Initial diagnosis and analysis yield well-defined solutions, and little or no complex behavior change is required.

· Complex changes require the list of activities to evolve over time because it is difficult to predetermine all of the activities, issues, or levers needed. This entails an ongoing diagnosis throughout the change, and some unknown, desired outcomes or definitions of success could emerge as the project progresses.

Strategies, plans, and organizations.

Single-Wave versus Multiple-Wave Implementation

Does the type of change lend itself to a single-wave rollout or multiple-wave (staggered) rollout?

· Single Wave implementation is best when aspects of the project are so integral they need to be addressed and implemented in a single phase. The intensity of the project could require dedicated resources as well as up-front alignment with stakeholders.

· Multiple Wave is better when the complexity of the end result means several phases will be more effective to accomplish objectives. This typically requires multiple and simultaneous projects, as well as more sophisticated project management and integration.

Some organizations may use a facilitated approach with outside consultants leading internal teams to develop solutions. Others may train internal people in change leadership so employees can handle initiatives without the aid of outside consultants.

Take the time to understand what resources you have available to you and what culture already exists in your organization so you can craft a strategy that takes advantage of your strengths and accounts for your weaknesses.

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