How to Thrive During Organizational Change
When executing change management in business, that space between ‘business-as-usual’ and a new way of working can be challenging to navigate. Roles and processes are ambiguous and the solid structure on which you previously stood strong, is crumbling beneath your feet. In the meantime…how do you juggle the new and the old?
Taking a lesson from my yoga practice, to maintain balance, I focus my line of sight on a person, place, or thing that is stable. In an organization going through significant transformation, stability can be hard to find. However, you can choose where you set your sights.
In the face of turbulence, focus on a high level view of the organization and ask yourself the following question: Are my values aligned with the values of this organization? Notice, that the question is not: Are my goals aligned with the goals of this organization? Strategic short-term goals are often necessarily unstable in a transforming organization as they are a result of responding in real-time to the unpredictable actions and reactions of the people within the organization.
On the other hand, authentic values, with-stand the test of time. At a high level view, either a company demonstrates the values that they give lip service to, or they don’t. The great thing about questioning the values that drive your organization is that in the process you begin to question the values that drive you. You can rest assured that you will not end up unconsciously moving to someplace you don’t want to be, if you make deliberate choices that ‘stand up’ for what you value. So, in the meantime…stay grounded by standing up for yourself.
As forward thinking organizations aim for greater transparency, paying close attention to the change management strategy throughout the transformation can be an invaluable learning experience. If your initial response is to play it safe and prepare to jump ship due to the uncertainty, think again! Without a doubt, looking out for #1 and discovering WIIFM should be your highest priority. However, strengthening the muscles used to thrive during ‘the best and the worst of times’ will give you ‘staying power.’ Due to rapid change being ‘the new normal,’ the ability to exercise ‘staying power’ during trying times is a quality that is gaining value. Whether you choose to stay or you choose to go, you want it to be ‘your choice.’
Thanks to technological advances, never in history have we been expected to cope with such rapid change. For companies that are sensitive to what their customers want and need, business goals are changing in real-time.
Sometimes it can feel like you are experiencing an all-out assault on who you are, who you aspire to be, and what you contribute to an organization. In many cases, because your role is evolving right before your eyes, you may not even know what it will look like when the dust settles. The good news is, just because the evolution of your current role is out of your control does not mean that where you are headed is out of your control. If you have done your homework and you know the characteristics of your ideal role and workplace, you have a clear target. Now you just need to determine what action(s) you need to take to get there.
Many people feel helpless and consequently dis-empowered when experiencing major organizational change. However, the impact of any change on you, depends on you. In order to determine WIIFM, consider all aspects of your current role (the good, the bad, and the ugly). Then ask yourself the following 3 questions:
- How will the change impact my current role?
- How will the change impact my future goals?
- As I think about potential personal consequences, am I inspired to take action?
While you may never understand all of the desired business outcomes related to a specific change, the key to a successful outcome for you, depends on you taking action. Initially, this may just mean that you are inspired to pay more attention to thought leaders in your industry and ask more questions in order to better understand the reason(s) for the change. The action(s) that you choose to take are not as important as the fact that you choose to take action. If you are simply reacting to the changing environment and not being proactive on any level, don’t be surprised when you feel increasingly dis-empowered.
Organizational change encompasses a variety of interactions: new ways of collaborating with colleagues, adoption of new technology systems, modification of job descriptions, introduction of new products or services, as well as expansion to new markets. Your personal experience of organizational change can range from: frightening, exciting, overwhelming, and inspiring. Initially, you may feel helpless and convinced that your voice is not important, but that simply is not true.
Your personal experience of a change is what matters most in organizational change. You may have had very little to do with the decision to make the change, but the decision you make about your role in the change is critical, for both you and the organization. Whether you make a conscious or unconscious decision, you contribute to the success or failure of change. We’ve all heard: “it’s not personal, it’s business.” If business is not personal, I don’t know what is!