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Engaging All Stakeholders in Strategies for Organizational Change

APRIL WEATHERSTON
Director of Insurance Services at HNI

Whether you're looking at the insurance, benefits, or business advisory side of our business, a lot of what we do is change management.  This is true across all of the industries we serve.  

To address the biggest problems facing business owners [that are often some of the biggest drivers of their insurance costs], someone in the company always has to start acting differently.

While there may be internal divisions within a company, it is important to view an organization as a complete entity when pursuing growth or initiating changes.  Processes and procedures are typically interconnected – meaning, that one process can dramatically enhance or interfere with another if not executed properly. This interconnectedness makes enlisting all departments, customers, investors, business partners and others in the process of change crucial to success. 

When individual goals conflict with strategies for organizational change

While various stakeholders are all invested in the success of the company, their immediate goals may conflict in the short term. 

Organizational_ChangeEmployees are concerned, first and foremost, with keeping their job and getting paid.  Investors want reassurance their financial commitment will pay off.  Customers need to know that your product will provide value. 

Oftentimes even other companies can play a critical role in successful change management -- for example, I work with roofing contractors and roofing supplier clients, and often the performance of their businesses is often closely intertwined.   

Many of us have been taught that conflict is a bad thing, but the fact of the matter is that conflict is inevitable.  Addressing the concerns of all of your key groups can provide greater clarity to your change management strategy.  When it comes down to it, all of your stakeholders want the company to grow.  The conflict is just over the “how” of change.

Who should drive the process?

Leadership has a choice to make.  They can follow an exclusive model, where the executive team excludes all stakeholders except a select few to determine what needs to be changed.  Or, they can embrace an inclusive model, which give will give stakeholders a voice in shaping strategies for organizaional change - from mutual diagnosis to action planning and implementation.

The big benefit to including the stakeholders in the process is employee motivation.  Employees that are part of the change efforts from the very beginning are much more motivated to adopt and sustain any new behaviors required for change.  Continued implementation of new processes and procedures are more likely to be successful and sustainable. 

For change that sticks, stakeholders need a sense of ownership.  The change process will stagnate without the feeling of trust, open communication, participation and collaborative problem solving.

Look at the "whole body view" when setting strategy

Aligning the interests of stakeholders is essential, especially when it comes time to ask them to change their behaviors.  The goals of various groups can be compatible, but only if everyone looks at the organization in its entirety. 

Compare an organization to the human body.  We have arms and legs, feet and hands.  These parts are connected to each other and then to the torso – at the joints.  Maintaining smooth mobility depends primarily on care of the joints. 

Although this is a bit of a corny analogy, the leadership team has to have an eye on the whole body and must nurture the connections between the parts for the company for it to be healthy. 

Communicating the “whole body view” to everyone helps them understand how their contributions are essential to the overall success of the organization.  Understanding the big picture and how they can benefit from change is necessary before they will be 100% committed.

Strategies for organizational change are not easy... but this is a battle worth fighting

Facilitating changes for the good of the company is not always easy. While some conflict is sure to come into play, giving consideration to all stakeholders from the beginning can help mitigate it.

Any change process should build on a culture of trust and open communication.  It should create a platform for creativity and prompt a desire to collaborate on ways to improve.  While change management is no easy task, any company that is going to be around in 20 years needs to make it a priority.

 

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