How to Orchestrate an Organization Change
If my employer asked me to explain how I would approach a critically important change initiative, I would respond by focusing on three main ideas: 1) the current state, 2) the road ahead, and 3) the
realization of value.
The Current State
By examining the current state of affairs to assess what behaviors need to be changed, what antecedents support those behaviors, and how those behaviors are being supported by practices and consequences, I will be able to know where to start.
To begin any change effort, a particular event must be deemed unsatisfactory and thus targeted for improvement. This event is always a result of certain behaviors. Those behaviors always have antecedents, things that set up the behaviors, which facilitate the employees acting out those behaviors. Those antecedents and behaviors are in turn supported by the historical consequences
of how employees have been treated by management in the past when performing those behaviors. These consequences have been reinforcing the antecedent-behavior cycle. By identifying the antecedents, behaviors, and consequences responsible for the undesirable phenomenon, I would be prepared to map out the path of change.
The Road Ahead
Now that I know the current state of affairs, I would inform the senior management of what's "broken". Once I have their assent with those points on what needs to change, I would lay out what
behaviors the company needs to implement to reach the desired end state. These ideal behaviors would come with antecedent settings and consequential actions. By providing a way on how to set the employee up for success in conducting the behaviors with good antecedents, such as training and clear explanations, the company will start to get the recommended behaviors. When these behaviors start to be witnessed, I would have the management poised to implement an aggressive
consequence effort in order to encourage the repetition and proliferation of those behaviors.
The Realization of Value
Once the current state of affairs is known and the path to the desired result is laid out, the remaining phase is sustaining the transformation until completion. In this context, completion is the point in time when all the stakeholders in the equation have internalized the transformation as part of their daily practices because the transformation has clearly shown its value by way of legitimate financial improvement to the company. This phase is the most tenuous because it is the furthest in time from the initial excitement and support from senior management. This phase depends on dependable change sponsors and agents in strategic positions throughout the company mustering up the tenacity to see it through to the end. If the transformation effort falls off the radar scope of the senior management due to other concerns that come up within the company, it would be my job and the job of the various change sponsors to reinvigorate that excitement and commitment
with all the stakeholders. This phase is complete when the changes start to work and the improved efficiency can be demonstrably tied to increased profits for the company. When all the stakeholders, including regular employees, realize and accept the relationship between the changed behaviors and the improved bottom line, the company's transformation will be self-sustaining and my job will be complete.
By getting a clear picture of current practices, setting out a path for successful transformation, and ensuring follow-through, the company can get the results it wants.