Question: Best practices in driving organization-wide change

We are rolling out a new set of methodologies and systems to help increase productivity across our organization, but it requires a huge change in mindset and tools.

The new methodologies are modern ways of thinking about processes and work, and require people to move off email as a catch-all, and on to new systems that help coordinate, capture and organize information and communications. It's a big change for most people, and change creates anxiety.

Given our decision to move to these modern tools, what are the latest change management methods that might help us move our company from 1990s communication thinking, into 2010s thinking?

6 Expert Insights

Those in the organization need to buy into the (1) need for change and (2) be part of the solution for the change in
participating how to manage the change.  Encourage everyone to communicate using more face-to-face communication.
Management needs to spend more time out of their office and more communicating with their employees and at the same time
make themselves more available for people to just drop in to talk.  

The communication needs to be in both directions.  Allow employees to provide input to changes and show that they do actually have a voice and they are heard.   If you allow people to part of the solution and encourage ideas, they will embrace the change more.  Do not change what is not broken and adapt best practices across the organization and be willing to try new things.  Benchmark other organizations to learn what is working and what is not.  

There are two strategies that can be used independently or intertwined.

A. Crowdsource of the reasons change is challenging is because it's usually attempted to be "driven" by some one or a few someones.  Crowdsourcing would have you pose the challenge to  the organization at large and have them come up with a number of solutions.  This does four things,
1. it takes away the feeling of helplessness at a change initiative by inviting people to participate in the solution. The sense of inclusion is very powerful for people
2. it gives people a sense of ownership which goes a long way past the notion of 'buy-in' an archaic form of generating consensus.
3. When people are part of the solution, they feel an organic connection to it. This makes it more sustainable in the long run because it's something they came up with themselves rather than feeling like it was imposed on them.
4. The innovation factor - when something is crowdsourced with a high level of transparency about how the decisions will be made moving forward, the people in the organization may come up with things you've never thought of because you don't live where they live. This also makes integration of the change much easier.

Strategy #2 is Gamification.
No I don't mean try to simply set up a system of rewards like badges and leaderboards although they may be some elements of it all. But I mean make the entire change initiative into a game. Gamification engages people so much more than the slogging it through to the end. If you need help with the notion, give me a call.

A gamification frame/approach has solved a protein folding challenge that had baffled scientists for 10 years, solved in 3 weeks and microsoft used a “Language Quality Game” which recruited employees around the world to review dialog  boxes. All told 4,500 participants reviewed over ½ million windows 7 dialog boxes and logged 6,700 bug reports

There are many ways to drive the change, but first you need to be sure they understand why it is in their best interest to move to something new. Changing personal habits can be hard but most are willing if they clearly understand the benefits.

As for how to drive adoption, there are two methods I have found particularly effective. One is to drive it layer by layer from the top which is called cascading. The other is to share it widely up front, see who adopts it and then use those early adopters to socialize the change in their departments or networks. There are pros and cons to both approaches so you'll need to think about how your organization has successfully executed changes in the past and build a plan from there.

You are requesting how to do a culture change, better thought of as an organizational transformation.  There is too much to say about this topic to keep within the 1900 character limit.  Send me your e-mail address and I will send you a set of 6 articles I wrote on the topic entitled "Beat the Odds: How to Beat the 70% Failure Rate of Organizational Initiatives"

Some highlights:
- Don't approach it as a "change", which inherently invalidates the current perspectives and people.  This will only cause "resistance to change" and the anxiety of which you spoke.
- Instead, create a future (better if they create such a future with the leaders) that is highly desirable and includes the goals you want to achieve.
- Work backwards from that future to the present, including what behavior is needed to fulfill that future.  Since behavior is correlated with mindset, this will imply a mindset alteration without dictating one.
- Teach them the skills needed to be successful in the new future (they will now want such training).

FYI, this is the process we have applied many times, including the organizational transformation we led at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, when a mindset change from command-and-control, hierarchy, no cost limits, and analysis to leadership, team, tight and rigid budgets, and breakthrough thinking was required to implement the low-cost missions that were planned.  The recent successful Curiosity mission to Mars (when they talked team, team, team) was one of the results.

I also agree with Rick's comment as well as comments of all of those who responded to this question.

Managing change in any organization is a difficult task as people do not like change. How you proceed with this change depends first on your management style.

If you are command and control manager you just tell the people to do what you want them to do and wait for the circumstances to get you.

If you are a manager that gives his people opportunity to participate you need to share with your people why this change is important and ask for their support.

If you are a collaborative manager you ask your people to collaborate with you in finding the best system that would serve the needs of the company and give the employees to have a say.

Please see 'Successful Execution on Strategy and Change: Generate Focus, Commitment and Action throughout Human systems" here: