If this year has taught us anything it’s that organisations need to be prepared for disruption and having leaders who are able to effectively manage change using core principles is what helped them weather the crisis of 2020.

An article in Gallup aptly states ‘How organizations lead and manage change is what distinguishes companies that thrive from those that merely survive, or worse yet — fail.’

So, if we acknowledge that disruption was the only constant this year, and that change is an ongoing reality in the 21st-century workplace, how do effective leaders and organisations navigate these stormy waters?
First and foremost, leaders play an integral role in this process. Visionary leaders who clearly communicate organisational goals and engage their employees to achieve more successful results.

The principles on which change management should be based include the following:
1. Set a clear vision for change
In order to increase the adoption to change leaders need to clearly articulate the organisation’s vision for change. By setting a clear vision leaders can translate these into change management plans which take the organisation social and emotional context into account. This will not only equip employees to adapt to transformation but also inspire ownership.

2. Involve the right people
The type of change impacts on the decisions regarding which people to involve in the process.

Whether the change is transformational or transactional determines the levels and breadth of executive and employees to include in the transformation process.
Change which transforms fundamentals about the organisation, for instance, culture or business objectives, will require stakeholders and executive management from different levels in the organisation to be involved throughout the entire process to ensure effective adoption and by-in.

Transactional change is more limited in its impact and therefore requires the involvement of a few levels of management and employees and also takes less time to achieve.

Regardless of the specifics of the change at hand, it is important to recognize that engaged employees are more likely to be effective change leaders and participants.

3. Communicate the appropriate information timeously
Communication about change needs to come from the right level of the organisation and needs to include the appropriate information as and when it is applicable.

When necessary, it should include specifics on how it will affect employees, especially if the change is disruptive. However, not every aspect of the transformation can and should be communicated at one time. The process should allow managers to take ownership of the interpersonal aspects to answer questions and mitigate the effects of negative emotions or cynical employees.

4. Prepare for resistance
Regardless of the best plans and clearly relayed communication strategy, you will encounter resistance from some executive or employees. To mitigate the resistance to transformation, strategies should account for dispositional and psychological factors within the organisation.

Leaders can try to ensure that the change efforts are also incremental rather than revolutionary, allowing stakeholders to own certain parts of the implementation. By intentionally framing the change leaders can also increase the likelihood of success.

5. Celebrate each milestone
To create a positive atmosphere it is important that each milestone in the transformation process is acknowledged and celebrated. However, don’t be overly zealous and declare victory about the entire change process prematurely.

Celebrating the short wins can have positive implications for the overall change strategy and in turn, elevate employees’ performance during the time of organizational change.

6. The only constant is change
As we have seen this year, the need to adapt and transform has been critical to many organisations. However, change management plans do not always occur in a linear fashion. Effective change strategies should therefore identify additional needs throughout the entire process.

At the same time, operating in an environment of constant change can also be detrimental leading to a decrease in engagement and productivity, as well as negatively affect employee wellbeing.

To circumvent these challenges, good leaders don’t plan for more than one concurrent transformational change at a time. Implementing training and development to help employees cope with the change will also increase your organisation’s prospects of successfully navigating change.