Change is a fact of life, but that doesn’t mean it’s something that you have to like. For businesses change can be especially damaging as it means a drop in productivity and therefore efficiency. From lowered revenue to a customer experience that’s not quite up to scratch with the usual fare, change can have damaging effects on your organization. Below you’ll find the five main types of organizational change, and how best to cope with them. Be aware that some types of change will fall into multiple categories, and it’s up to you to decide which strategy is best in which scenario in that case.
- Organization-Wide Change
Organization-wide change is anything that happens on such a scale that it affects the entire organization. This type of change affects every single employee and department, and can be anything from implementing new technology to new ways of recording and storing data and beyond. Nothing that takes place on this scale can be done immediately, so expect a long period of disruptions and a lag in efficiency during this time.
Coping with organization-wide change is a process that starts well before the change takes effect. First, by looking at what you want to achieve and how you intend to get there, you can start to see what kind of obstacles might be in your path. Resistance to change is a big one that needs to be factored in, but don’t forget to account for smaller ones such as your personnel’s unfamiliarity with the new circumstances leading to mistakes, or, especially if the change is on the customer-facing end, consumer confusion around the new way of doing things.
Above all, no matter how much you plan and predict you need to keep in mind that there will be disruptions. Nobody can predict every potential problem or side effect, and you need to be able to alter your plans if necessary to accommodate for unforeseen factors. This goes doubly so for regionally or departmentally specific issues – you need to be flexible so your plans can bend instead of breaking.
- Transformational Change
Transformational change is about the direction your business takes. This encompasses any changes that occur in your marketing strategy, organizational strategy etc. It’s most often found in businesses based in the digital world, where trends and the social climate can shift at the press of a button, but can affect offline businesses too.
The best way to cope with these types of changes is simply to be ready and willing to change your strategies when necessary. Especially in the upper management, but going down to the lowest levels of personnel too, you need to be ready to shift your focus as needed in volatile circumstances. Organizational agility is a term used often, referring to the ability to react quickly to changes in operations – this isn’t something that will exist without being taught however, as human nature is to prefer it when things don’t change.
- Personnel Change
In a case of stating the obvious, personnel change refers to any changes that happen within an organization’s personnel, whether that be layoffs, new hires or promotions/demotions. This type of change is often overlooked as it is very localized to the team or department where the personnel changes are occurring, but it is very important. Employee morale can suffer as a result of layoff, new hires can create friction, etc.
In order to best cope with personnel changes, you need to define the type. Layoffs cause morale problems as employees worry about job security – reaffirming personnel is crucial. In the case of promotions, mentoring using a pre-existing career ladder if one exists can allow your employee to seamlessly slip into a new role without confusion or friction.
- Unplanned Change
Unplanned change is simply what it says, any changes that are unplanned. These might be due to shifting market circumstances that could not be foreseen, supply issues or even natural disasters. Unlike other forms of change on this list, unplanned change by its very nature cannot be accounted and planned for, so you need to work reactively instead of proactively in order to minimize damage.
Working quickly in response to the information you have is crucial to dealing with unplanned change. However, you also need to keep your approach flexible in case new information comes to light that necessitates alterations to your plans. The most glaring example of chaotic unplanned change in recent years is the world-wide reactions to the COVID-19 pandemic, with new facts coming in week by week, and projected figures being nowhere remotely accurate in a lot of cases.
As demonstrated by 2020, unplanned change can be a killer to business, especially small businesses who don’t have the resources to take losses whilst making organizational changes.
- Remedial Change
Remedial change is deliberate change that is introduced into your organization in order to address deficiencies or falling performance. Whilst that description implies poor business strategy, sometimes these changes come as a factor of the shifting market – what was suitable one year may not be suitable in another. A good example of this is the trends in digital transformation we’ve been seeing in the wake of 2020, with consumers having had access to digital options (by necessity) during lockdowns and not being keen to give them up. Remedial change is another type of change where planning is important, and in this case it’s communication which is key. People don’t like to be told they’re doing poorly, especially when the same strategies you’re criticizing worked perfectly well before. In order to best emphasize the need for change, you should communicate the reasons why to your team and listen for their input. You never know, they may have insights on the matter that you haven’t considered. This is especially true when the orders come from the higher levels, who might be too far removed from what is actually going on in the lower levels to have a complete picture of what needs to be done.