“How to migrate from Top-Down Change only, to Top-Down and Bottom-Up Change simultaneously, without losing Grip & Credibility?”
Organizational change is complex and does not always brings us the expected results. Now what is organizational change; when do you use it and need it; and how do you execute it; why is it so complex and how to combine top-down and bottom-up? How do you make it really successful and sustainable?
All questions you need to know before starting an organizational change program. But you also need to know how to make it easy for your employees and accessible for all involved.
What is Organizational Change?
Markets change, competitors change with the effect that companies and their employees need to change too, at least if they want to stay competitive. So, they either need to enter new markets and grow fast or they need to exit specific markets and downsize. Examples of organizational change are: Growth, downsizing, reorganization, tilting decentralization, centralization, reorganization, outsourcing, shared service centers, restructure, integration.
If your organization needs to change you will need to get organized in order to migrate from an existing IST to future SOLL situation. For example, when you are transitioning or changing from multiple business units into shared service centers for the back-office, this will always affect people, processes and systems. The classical way to execute this change or transition is by strong program or project management having a beginning and an end and being able to stay within budget and time. Usually these organizations have a PMO-Project Management Office in order to monitor all these strategical programs and projects.
Bridging the gap
Yet …….this is top-down and stays at the top-level of managers. It does not really affect how the change is translated, digested and embedded or operationalized to the shop-floor or the operational teams. These teams or departments think in easy translations of your strategy, clear tasks, ways of working, transparent responsibilities and practical solutions. As long as they are part of the change and improvements they will make the difference between success and failure. So, the challenge lays in bridging the gap and connecting between top-level and operational-level. In the translation of what has been thought out in the board-room and needs to be executed at operational level!
When reading the above it will not come to you as a surprise that the statistics regarding the success rates of classical top-down organizational change & improvement programs and projects are quite disturbing
- 55% to 70% of projects fail completely
- 45% of projects are not participative
- 35% of projects do not finish in time
But why is organizational change so complex?
- Because it involves people and they don’t always want to change
- Because it embeds multiple disciplines and that enforces silo thinking
- Because it offers multiple approaches, methods and toolings and who’s right?
- Because every leader is a change consultant and knows what’s best for us
- Because it forces us to work in structures and projects which people don’t like
- Because we speak totally different languages in all layers of the organization
- Because we don’t see the obvious and that is how operational teams work
Operationalization is an Art
But I thought we had so many change gurus, experts, methods, toolings, etc then why is this happening? Why don’t we have control over the execution of change programs?
- Because we don’t listen to the basics of how human beings act, think and learn
- Because we don’t listen to where the pain is mostly felt, the operational teams
- Because we think that, if everybody uses Lean or Agile, then we need that too
- Because consultancy firms want you to make it complex, they are not in it for you to be able to learn it I order to do it by yourself
- Because we think and keep on thinking in complexity instead of redesigning change into an accessible, repetitive and simple model
Now how to solve this complex and simple paradigm? How to bridge the gap between top-level and operational-level? How to work top-down and bottom-up at the same time without losing grip and staying in control. The answer is quite disturbing, its simplicity! In order to be able to connect with the operational teams you need simplicity. And simplicity is – an easy to understand method, an accessible method and a repetitive method for this will give you a learning by doing approach that you need in order to get people connected, responsible and involved.
Now what will the future of Organizational Change look like? You have 2 options:
- Keep on going the classical top-down consultancy way and keep it as complex as it can be and keep on having failures of up to 70% or
- Adapt and change in an accessible, simple & repetitive way for all to use and understand, resulting in employees that are happy; involved; empowered; ready for self-steering; able to be continuously Agile, Lean and productive at the same time?
Most change projects today are still executed the first way. It is my believe however that this will change towards the second option in the near future. Recent projects I worked in showed proof of concept of a Top Down and Bottom Up approach at various organizations and resulted in programs that were faster with higher involvement at lower costs.
If you recognize this and struggling with this kind of issues yourself or want to know more, then please do not hesitate to send me a message or give me a call.
* Geert-Jan C de Steur MBA is organizational-change expert par excellence. He specializes in the execution of change and improvement programs and in connecting C-Level with the operational teams. He therefor developed a change simplifier, accelerator and disruptor at the same time (Method & SaaS Software), called Drawbridge54.