How do managers become effective organisational change agents?

13 May, 2019
How do managers become effective organisational change agents?

Six behaviours of effective change leadership

In a business world in which political, social, technological and economic disruption is causing the scope and pace of change to increase exponentially, the unrest caused can be particularly challenging to an organisation’s leaders. If employees are unaware of why change is needed, resistance to it is more likely to be considerable (as we discussed in our article “If employees aren’t aware of the need for change, it won’t happen”). Organisational change agents are essential to help promote and explain change initiatives – and the best of these should be an organisation’s managers.

In this article, we discuss six leadership behaviours and actions that managers employ as organisational change agents.


Six behaviours of effective organisational change agents

It would be wrong to automatically assume that employees understand why organisational change is needed. This is particularly relevant as it is the employees who will often be tasked with executing (and sustaining) organisational change. Therefore, as we’ve seen in our previous article (Seven essential elements of organisational change communication”), it is imperative that an organisation,  its leaders and change champions ensure that employees have a deep awareness of the need for change.

People managers (and supervisors) are ideally positioned to become an organisation’s most effective organisational change agents, and to encourage the employee engagement needed for successful organisational change. To do this, organisational change agents must walk the talk, employing the following six behaviours to promote full participation in organisational change.


1. Provide a clear future vision constantly

Part of the role of organisational change agents is to inspire others to embrace change. People need a clear vision of the future. They wish to know why, how and when change is happening. Providing employees with the big picture is the most important thing that an organisation can do. It needs to do so constantly and consistently.

The future vision should align with the organisation’s vision and mission and present compelling reasons for change. Organisational change agents should be part of articulating the future vision, helping to alleviate fears and concerns caused by uncertainty.


2. Communicate constantly

Communication during organisational change should never be a single event. Keeping people informed of progress at every stage of the organisational change is essential. Effective communication that will help to inspire employees to participate in collaborative change include:

  • Clarity and consistency, with the narrative linked to the big picture and continually reiterating the need for change and the exciting future potential
  • Communicating with humility, ensuring that concerns are answered with commitment to openness, honesty and candidness about what is not yet known
  • Keeping it personal, by helping people to understand how they and their team will benefit in the future

During all internal communication, it is essential that organisational change agents engage in dialogue with employees, encouraging exchanges of views and ideas and reinforcing the feeling of togetherness in the challenges ahead.


3. Empower change by being examples of change

Organisational change requires employees to do things differently. For example, there may be a change in organisational structure that necessitates a change in reporting lines or new procedures because of new technology.

According to a McKinsey study, “How to beat the transformational odds”, when senior leaders model new behaviours necessitated by organisational change, transformative change is five times more likely to be successful. When organisational change agents become models of the new behaviours, their influence is assured.


4. Confidence in organisational change

Organisational change agents must be confident in the change. Only when confident can they communicate and act positively and this confidence will trickle down. It is imperative that organisational change agents are provided with the correct tools and training to build their confidence. This includes how to lead effectively through change, how to communicate change successfully, and how to tackle resistance and other roadblocks collaboratively to empower employee engagement in the change project.


5. Involve everyone

In the planning and execution stage, and beyond the perceived finish line of organisational change, organisational change leaders should involve all stakeholders of change. They should solicit feedback and act on it. They should also encourage others to become change champions, developing wider ownership of the change project – ownership that will support the change and improve change sustainability.


6. Recognition of commitment and desired behaviours

One of the most effective ways to encourage commitment to change is to recognise employees who embrace the organisational change project and exhibit the desired behaviours. There are many recognition strategies that can be employed to reward individuals and teams for progress toward the goals of the organisational change.


Can your managers see the big picture?

In its Change and Communication ROI Study, Willis Towers Watson concludes that organisations that are effective at change management are more than three times more likely to outperform their competition.

Organisations that assume their employees understand the need for change are least likely to execute change successfully. By developing managers as organisational change agents and providing them with the tools to communicate and execute effectively, your organisation will be more effective at change management.

To learn how the Learning Map could help you to improve your organisation’s effectiveness in organisational change management, get in touch with The Big Picture People today.

(See how putting people in the picture creates a step change in performance and helps prepare a company for the next stage of growth in this case study.)

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