Many people have asked me what are the keys to successful organizational change? The kind of change that will actually stick? This happened most recently late in the spring, when I facilitated a workshop on this topic at the American Society of Quality (ASQ) annual Cowtown Roundup in Fort Worth.
The best-selling business book I co-authored with Bill Lee, Organizing Change (Jossey Bass/Pfeiffer, 2003) had three guiding principles:
inclusive – involve as many people as possible, and as deep in the organization as possible, in that it is difficult to not support a change initiative you helped create
systematic – follow a logical set of steps to phase in the stages of the change initiative.
systemic – consider the impact of the change initiative on other units of the organization, as well as other organizations, consumers, and other environmental factors, and not just your own.
However, the first step is do not announce the change initiative! Never begin change with the change. Acknowledge the problem. Investigate. Discover. Observe. Ask questions. Listen. Learn. In some cases, a problem does not even warrant a change. In others, after conducting such due diligence, the change initiative that you actually promote may be entirely different from what you originally thought.
In other words, go slow. Be thorough. Find out what is going on. Many change initiatives fail because they are simply not proper and appropriate for the purported problem they are intended to correct.