Honing your skills to manage change

by Kayla Crum on Apr 11, 2024

Most leaders know that managing organizational change is a Herculean task. In addition to the human propensity to resist change, leaders must work against the inertia of established habits, routines, and practices that have built up over years or decades.

But just because you’ve experienced suboptimal organizational changes in the past doesn’t mean the next implementation has to go the same way. With a bit of reflection and flexibility, it is possible to lead your team through change with confidence. To do so, we recommend the following steps.


Look back

Before you can decide the best approach for moving forward, it’s important to take stock of what hasn’t gone well in the past. One helpful framework for determining the type of change management strategy your organization uses is the Change-Approaches Framework detailed in the Harvard Business Review, which presents four types of change management:

  • Directive: top-down, rollout
  • Self-assembly: initiatives, toolkits
  • Masterful: frameworks, collaborative
  • Emergent: self-organized, flexible


Each of these approaches has pros and cons, and the Harvard Business Review argues that the Masterful and Emergent approaches are the most successful. Be honest with yourself as you identify the approach your organization has taken in the past.

Here at Teamalytics, our first step in working with any group is generating awareness of the issues at hand through proprietary analytics and assessments. We even have a measure in our Teamalytics 360 that quantifies your Need for Change along with your teams, pinpointing specific hotspots to help you navigate change better. Our research shows that you can’t get anywhere new without acknowledging your starting point.


Look forward

Now that you know where you’ve been, it’s time to map out where you want to go. Determine how much control you have over the change approach within the confines of your current leadership role.

If you have quite a bit of autonomy when it comes to implementing the proposed change, pick a change approach from the framework that would be a good fit for your team and your own unique strengths and constraints as a leader. Be sure to account for the proposed change timeline as you plan your new approach; a change management overhaul isn’t likely to be successful in two weeks.


Communicate the plan (but be sure to have the key ingredient)

No matter which change management approach you choose, it is crucial to communicate the plan to your team. If they’ve been a part of organizational change at your company before, they will be expecting more of the same.

Now is your opportunity to explain the new approach and the rationale behind it. Research shows that trust is a key ingredient to team success, and without it, your new change management strategy is much more likely to fail.

If you’ve selected a collaborative change management strategy such as Masterful or Emergent, make sure you are open to hearing concerns from team members in your initial conversations about the change. If you’re unwilling to field questions, you will be reverting to a Directive or Self-Assembly approach in practice.


Remain receptive and flexible

As the organizational change takes place, continue to be open to feedback from your team. Not only did you ask them to absorb an organizational change; you also asked them to change the way they approach change itself!

Don’t expect everything to go smoothly just because you took a new approach. Be willing to make adjustments and pivot when necessary. Both as the process unfolds and after it’s done, track formal feedback for later analysis. It will help you perform even better when the next organizational change rolls around.

If this process sounds like a lot of work, that’s because it is. At Teamalytics, we have decades of experience working with leaders like yourself as they navigate organizational change and team dynamics. We’ve collated our research into bite-sized, helpful guides for busy professionals. If you want help leading your team through organizational change, download our free guide on team building today: “Building A-Teams: Balancing Results and Relationships for Long-Term Success”.