How to gain acceptance of organizational change

Any organizational change can meet with internal resistance. In this response, SSQ Site Editor Yvette Francino offers advice on how to win buy-in from those affected through honest communication and continuous improvement.

We are going through a big reorganization and there’s not a lot of buy-in. What are some ways I can gain acceptance?

Organizational change takes time. Some groups will put together a “Change Acceptance Plan” to track communication and activities related to gaining acceptance. Depending on the size and nature of the change, you may or may not decide to implement a formal plan. But regardless of size or effort, here are three tips that will help gain acceptance for any organizational change.

Involve the people who are affected

One of the best ways to gain buy-in is to listen to the people who are affected and try and address whatever concerns they have. If possible, involve them before a final solution is reached so that they can help come up with a solution. However, if a solution is already in place, don’t try to put a sugar-coated positive spin on the solution. Be honest about how the solution was reached and describe both the benefits and any potential issues. Listen and understand the issues that are brought up and elicit help in trying to resolve whatever challenges have resulted from the change.

In Real world Agile: Gaining internal acceptance of Agile methodologies, you’ll find that skeptics can become your biggest allies in organizational change.

Communicate, communicate, communicate

Open communication during an organizational change is imperative. Communication should come from leadership and there should be avenues for everyone to ask questions or voice concerns, anonymously or certainly with no repercussions. Of course, disrespect should never be tolerated and some facts may be confidential or unable to be shared for various reasons. But in such cases where facts can’t be shared, that should be explained. The environment needs to be one which fosters respect, honesty and transparency.

Work towards continuous improvement

With any change it’s always best to “inspect and adapt.” Periodically review the change and the feedback that you’ve received and figure out ways to continually improve the change. Is the change meeting the objectives that it originally intended? Are there processes or tasks that can be done to address any of the challenges or issues resulting from the change? Implementing suggestions that were brought up from those affected will go a long way in showing that you’re listening and that their feedback does make a difference.

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