Making effective organizational changes can be difficult. However, with change the only constant in a global economy, evolving business practices are a necessity. According to an article in Harvard Business Review, two out of three transformation initiatives fail. How can executives make these transitions smoother and more successful?
“Soft vs. Hard” Factors
Many organizations want to change “soft factors,” including corporate culture and employee motivation. The HBR article posits that without the inclusion of “hard factors,” such initiatives are less likely to succeed. Hard factors include the time to complete the project, the number of people necessary, and the financial results expected. These types of hard factors are easy to measure, to communicate, and easier to influence. Using hard factors as the basis of the strategy makes it easier to implement a change in leadership style, for example.
Middle Managers May be the Key
A study has found that 32% of successful organizational change efforts involved the active participation of mid-level managers. Middle managers may be crucial to affect change. Why? Middle managers are on the ground seeing the inner workings of a business on a day-to-day basis. They are aware of the mood of employees. From these experiences, they often have value-add ideas and can leverage informal networks within the company. Mid-level managers might be the less appreciated members of an organization, and an interesting quote from this article highlights the disconnect:
“At this point, you may be shaking your head, saying, “I’m not getting those kinds of results from my middle managers.” And you may be right. But the problem most likely does not lie with your middle managers; it probably rests with you. Indeed, the more closely I looked at companies, the more examples I saw of senior executives failing to listen to their middle managers. Good ideas routinely died before they ever saw the light of day.”
The article goes on to say that change is not simply cleaning house and starting over: “It’s figuring out how to hold on to core values and capabilities while simultaneously changing how work gets done and shifting the organization in new strategic directions.” Middle managers, with their practical experience and finger on the pulse of employee engagement, are crucial in this process. The middle manager, in their day-to-day function, is also instrumental in the execution and measurement of the hard factors described above: the numbers, the man power, and the financial results.
An Art, Not a Science
Effective change is a delicate balance, one that requires both art and science. Laying a foundation for success includes employment of measurable factors such as time and money. However, the success of any change initiative comes down to the people involved. If you can engage your middle managers to both implement changes and empower them to be part of the process, you are closer to achieving your stated goal. Viewing organizational change as less of a top-down directive and more of a ground-up and global effort by all employees is essential.