A reorganization or merger is a well-known phenomenon for many managers and entrepreneurs. An organizational change encounters conflicting interests and emotions. Get all noses in the right direction while saying goodbye to colleagues, ingrained habits and corporate cultures.
In the past 15 years I have had a lot of organizational changes on my mind. As an employee at an organization that doubled in size, as a chairman of a works council during a reorganization and as a manager, I experienced a change of leadership and a merger. All these changes were significant. Regardless of my own role in the process. I have summarized the experiences of these change processes into 10 tips (or warnings) for a turbulent period. *
#1 Think before you begin
Before you take the plunge and start this complicated process, it is good to go back to the basics. It will be a drastic process that is practically irreversible once it has started. You don't want to regret it afterwards for reasons you could have imagined beforehand. So the main question is: are you sure this is a good move?
Ask yourself critical questions and dare to answer them honestly. This concerns questions such as: Why are you going to merge or reorganize? What is the goal? What are the advantages and disadvantages? Who will suffer? Who gets along with it? What risks do you run?
Can't you map this yourself? Then ask someone to ask you those critical questions that you don't dare to ask yourself. This is a crucial step that you have to go through!
#2 Know where the dot is on the horizon
Of course you know where you want to go with this merger or reorganization. However?
Or maybe it is not that simple to explain. Or the doubt echoes in your story because you do not have that dot in mind, let alone put it into words.
Find the dot on the horizon. Try to describe that dot as extensively as possible. What does the organization look like on the dot? What does the organization stand for? What has the organization achieved at that point?
Then make sure that you can explain the dot in a maximum of 10 sentences to your colleagues, employees and customers. And keep repeating these sentences, so that everyone gets a good idea of that dot. Then it becomes a common goal.
Can't you sum it up in a few sentences? Then go back to tip #1, because perhaps the story behind the reorganization or merger is not yet correct.
Do you work with managers or senior employees within your organization? Then let them think about the dot on the horizon. They will carry the message to a large extent within the organization and externally.
#3 Provide a framework and a process
The successful completion of a merger or reorganization process stands or falls with a good framework and a corresponding time frame.
Visualize the current situation and then consider which steps are necessary to reach the previously outlined dot on the horizon. Do not get bogged down in details, but outline a clear process in outline. Determine the phases of the process and place them on the timeline.
No organizational change directly generates money. In fact, it is often a costly affair.
Therefore, make sure you map out the conditions that the process must meet. How much can the organizational change cost? What is acceptable sick leave? At what staff turnover is the organization at risk? What are the essential parts of the new organization?
And consider whether you want the process to be supervised by an external professional. A reorganization or merger can get complicated, especially when you are in the middle of it yourself. An outsider can assist you with advice and assistance, without having an interest in the outcome of the organizational change. Yes, it is an extra cost.
#4 Let management devise the implementation
Management plays an important role within the organization. Your managers are ideally placed to translate policy into practice. They know better than management what gaps can occur, which risks the organization runs and which colleagues are essential. They are also often able to estimate where efficiency can be achieved in the long term.
Give your managers a clear assignment to come up with plans that support the process. In other words, give them the dot on the horizon and the frame and give them the space to come up with ideas.
Above all, they are best able to execute a plan that they have designed themselves. That benefits success. Thanks to the framework outlined at #3, management has the space and the entrepreneur or director can coach, spar and adjust when necessary. I know from experience that nothing is as difficult as executing a plan imposed from above that you do not support.
#5 Be clear, honest, transparent and inspire
A merger or reorganization is a turbulent period for the employees of any company. In case of change, uncertainty always emerges. And that uncertainty can have many undesirable consequences, such as a deteriorated atmosphere in the workplace, higher absenteeism and the departure of colleagues.
Limit the uncertainty and its consequences by continuously telling the same story (tip #2) and providing a clear timetable (tip #3). And be honest and transparent about the steps being taken and when something is going slower or differently than expected. Don't be secretive if you don't know the answer to a question, just tell them to come back later. And pay sufficient attention to frustrations that live among your employees.
And if you can, take it a step further. Be sure to inspire them to help reach that dot on the horizon!
#6 Give everyone a role
Everyone who thinks along in the formation of the process is more closely involved in its implementation. By thinking along, many noses slowly rise up, so that people can work together towards the future.
Tell your employees what exactly you are asking for input about, what you are doing with their input and when you are going to provide feedback. Let them think along, for example, about the core values of the new organization and the core message that is being communicated to the outside world. Process all input and present the end result, including considerations, to your employees. In this way you give them serious influence, they feel involved and they tell the story of the organization more easily. The core values and the core message are theirs.
Take their input seriously. Don't do it to give employees a sense of commitment without being careful with their input. That attempt certainly immediately hits back in your face. And then the saying goes: trust comes on foot, but goes on horseback.
#7 Always say goodbye
A large-scale change in the organization creates a new situation. A working environment that employees have to get used to. Sticking to the familiar past counteracts that habituation. To welcome the new, it is important to say goodbye to what disappears. The more radical the change, the greater the sadness that comes with saying goodbye. That grief must be given room so that employees can process it and give it a place.
Provide a farewell that suits the organization. Do not determine it yourself, but let employees think of the ritual with which they want to end the old. Maybe it will be a celebration of the past or a real ritual in which the old is buried and the new is born. This ensures a good transition that everyone can look back on with a good feeling.
When former employees and customers are closely involved in the organization, see if you can let them be part of the ritual. This can also help directly to get them used to the idea of the new organization.
#8 Be proud of the past
After you have said goodbye, it is obvious to fully focus on the future. You want to throw away all the old, so that what you want to build on remains. Then you kick the sore leg of many employees. Because even though goodbyes have been said, the memories often have a special place in their memory.
Keep the organization proud of its origins and recognize the past achievements. Dare to quote, celebrate and build on. Because that old organization is the foundation of the new!
Also give space to the past on your website, so that this also continues to play a role in communication to the outside. This keeps history alive and that often works to your advantage.
#9 Stay engaged and decent
It is now clear. A merger or reorganization brings a lot of emotions. You have to deal with anger, sadness, illness and the departure of employees. First of all, it is good to remember that this is simply part of change. In addition, anger and grief are rarely really about a person, but much more about the situation. If emotions run high, don't react emotionally. And if it does happen, make sure you take the first step to remove any tension from the air. Remains engaged and decent.
Keep telling yourself that your organization consists of people. Often people who have worked day and day for your organization for years. Take into account the impact that the change has on them. And treat them the way you would like to be treated if you had been in their shoes.
Take responsibility. If an employee is frustrated and gets sick, be a good employer. Give attention via flowers, cards and of course personal contact. You know this is going to happen, so have a good protocol ready for you to act on. Then you don't forget to send flowers because it was too busy or to call because you find it difficult. Because admit it, you would also find it extremely frustrating if you do not hear from your employer, manager or colleagues when you are home sick. I certainly do!
Ensure proper rounding. Employees will always leave in the event of an organizational change. Some good, others bad. Don't be tempted to make personal considerations. Arrange for a good departure. Make sure the contract is properly terminated and say goodbye. You never know what ambassador role that former employee will ever fulfill again and it creates confidence among the remaining employees that they are really well taken care of.
Nobody knows exactly how the process of an organizational change will go. Unexpected things lurk around every corner. Therefore, make sure you evaluate every step in the process. Is the step complete or are there still open ends? Which things went well and which things went less well? What really needed more attention? What lessons have you learned that can take you to the next step?
Record the evaluation and tell the organization about the results. Especially about what you will do better in the next phase. It gives confidence that you listen to and anticipate the signals in the organization.
Actually include the results in the rest of the process. Dare to make adjustments based on the experience gained. Then the process will most likely run more smoothly and the chances of successful completion will increase.
No recipe for success
There is not one beautiful plan with which you can realize every organizational change. Every company is different and every change has a different background. But people remain people. And people always react reluctantly and often emotionally change. They prefer to stick to a familiar situation, even when it does not provide optimal satisfaction.
With the tips above, I give tips for dealing better with that unruly person.
Comment below with your tip.
I'd love to hear it, because together we know more!
* All examples in this blog are experience-inspired fiction.