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10 organizational change best practices

By Louise von Matern on Jun 7, 2018 7:55:00 AM

Even if we do say so ourselves, Howspace is the perfect platform for facilitating complex organizational change and development initiatives. To help you make the most of your next project – and your new favorite platform – I gathered some best practices and practical advice that I thought you might find useful when planning your next change process.

Read the post from A to Z, or skip to the section that you're interested in:

  1. Engage stakeholders from the start
  2. Co-create the “why”
  3. Visualize and show progress
  4. Create a feedback loop
  5. Arrange local group discussions
  6. Offer peer coaching or 1:1s
  7. Keep change in the limelight
  8. Invite customers, users, and other stakeholders to the conversation
  9. Leverage natural forces
  10. Keep an eye on the force field


1. Engage stakeholders from the start

When strategy and execution are managed as two separate streams, you’ll risk running into resistance during execution. When people haven’t been involved or given the chance to share their knowledge, questions, hopes, and fears, it’s harder to get their buy-in. Change will take more time because you need to “take it from the top” over and over again. And worse yet, by limiting decision-making to the board room, you'll risk choosing the wrong strategy.

With Howspace, you can easily invite as many people as you wish to discuss strategy and the possible consequences of certain decisions before anything has been set in stone. Who you invite is completely up to you!

After you’ve selected and invited all the participants, it’s time to kick things off. As an introduction, you can present the current state, the factors that make change necessary by using video clips, recorded slide presentations, and/or articles.

Next, you can ask questions to get important input from your organization. By activating people in these topics, you also help them make sense of the current and future state. Engaging people in Howspace comes down to knowing which questions to ask.

Additionally, you can use well-known methods in Howspace, such as SWOT analysis and force field analysis. You can ask questions that open up lots of different perspectives, such as: “What do you see as our main challenges for next year?” or “What needs to happen before we can become the number 1 in our market?”

Alternatively, you can use the poll widget to ask multiple choice questions, such as: “Which two of these 10 suggested tactics would create the biggest impact?”


2. Co-create the “why”

“Why” is perhaps the most important question to answer in a change process. It helps employees understand the rationale behind a decision.

From an individual’s perspective, the key to motivation and engagement lies in the “why”. If it’s important to us, we’re more likely to make it happen. But people have different drivers, and we all go to work for different reasons. So the question “why change” should also be a topic of conversation: “What is interesting for you in this?” or “Which part of our vision resonates with your own personal motivation?”

With Howspace, you can reach out to everyone to communicate the rationale behind a decision. Try to be as concrete as possible, give examples, and tell stories that provide people with a better understanding. For example, you could conduct a video interview with a customer, a user, or someone else whose story will support the numbers and logical arguments.

Conversations about personal motivation could also be shared in Howspace. Most often, there is more than one valid reason for why change is necessary. Engaging more people and inviting them to share their thoughts creates a powerful picture with many different perspectives.


3. Visualize and show progress

Predictability is a crucial part of feeling safe. In a change process, we need to communicate how to move forward and how the change will take place. By visualizing the overall picture, you give the participants a much needed helicopter perspective. From this view, you can also show progress: what steps have been taken and what comes next. Howspace allows you to share the big picture and give employees the opportunity to ask additional questions about the process.

In fact, Howspace is designed in a way that makes it easy to visualize the process by adding and naming different pages. If, let’s say, the major building blocks of your change process are a series of conferences, workshops, and trainings, each of these building blocks can be given its own page in Howspace. This will make it very easy for the employees to navigate on the workspace, know exactly where they are in the process, what content and what discussions are related to that particular activity, and what comes next.

One of the design principles of Howspace is its noiselessness. One aspect of this helping users find what they’re looking for immediately. In other words, users should never have to search or guess what to focus on next.


4. Create a feedback loop

Communication always creates new questions. It’s an important aspect of making sense of new information. As a change leader, you need to listen to those questions and answer them, preferably quickly before they turn into a frustration or fear about the future. By answering the employees’ questions, you show respect to the people who are involved and impacted by the change.

With Howspace, you can easily create specific pages for feedback loops. And it’s easy to let people know, when you’ve answered their questions. As an alternative to writing your answer, you can also answer with a short video clip or a voice recording. You may also recognize the fact that one question may have more than one answer – a lot of the times, questions about the future can be answered from different perspectives.

Howspace makes it easy to invite people from different parts of the company to give their perspectives to the the same question. With Howspace, you can turn those stiff FAQ-documents to live conversations that actually bring meaning to everyone involved.


5. Arrange local group discussions

Most change initiatives are communicated from a general perspective. While this is a good start, conversations must continue on a local level. "How will this affect us our department?", "What do we need to do to make this change happen?" The responsibility for facilitating these conversations lies with local managers.

With Howspace, you can create communities where groups of people can focus on their own part of the change. This can either be done by creating pages for certain groups, or even opening new workspaces for specific groups of people. Sometimes it’s valuable for the different groups to be able to follow the conversations of other groups. At other times, groups need to be able to talk about their issues in private. With Howspace, you have the flexibility to choose the approach that fits your situation.


6. Offer peer coaching or 1:1s

One great way to make things happen, is to arrange a “buddy system” in the organization. Don’t leave it to individuals to make change happen all by themselves. In fact, you can compare change to exercising: you’re more likely to work out if you have a friend waiting for you at the gym.

Let employees create small groups of change buddies with whom they will plan how to change, and follow up on the actions taken. Howspace allows you to do this even if it’s difficult to meet in person or as often as you’d like. When a person has written down his/her plans, they’re more likely to commit. People want to be consistent with their previous actions and statements.

In Howspace, you’re never far away from the support of your change buddies.


7. Keep change in the limelight

You’ve probably experienced this several times before: In a meeting, and shortly after, you’re filled with energy and great ideas. This happens because you’ve had the opportunity to listen to people, discuss with them, and get inspired by them. But back at your desk, reality hits you: There’s so much that calls for your attention. The truth in many organizations is that you must work on change initiatives despite of and in addition to your other responsibilities.

With Howspace, you can send out invitation and reminder emails as often as you wish. In the email, the participants will find a clickable link, that leads them to…. yes, what? You have the power to decide. You could poke, nudge, inspire, or activate people with tasks that are quickly done, or by showing them a video, giving them a praise, asking them a question, or by giving them an assignment to do.

But remember, you also need to understand where and when you go from activating to aggravating.


8. Invite customers, users, and other stakeholders to the conversation

Organizational change is often driven by external factors, customer needs, shifts in technology, or new regulations. But all employees don’t have natural connections to these factors. Most of the time, change journeys are managed with internal messages, internal meetings, and internal trainings. To keep up the motivation and remind everyone why the change is taking place, it’s a good idea to bring external stakeholders closer to the organization.

With Howspace, this is easy. You can temporarily bring in anyone from the outside to a workspace. And for that external visit, you can arrange so that nothing from previous conversations is visible to the guest. It’s as easy as inviting someone to a physical meeting. Only easier, because you don’t have to take time and geography into account.

Picture your employees in a conversation with a group of customers. Or perhaps a different department. Not ready to let the whole organization in on a conversation like that? If that’s the case, you can let a selected group of people be active in the conversation, and the other ones just “listening in”. And when the conversation is over, you simply remove the external guests from the workspace and your internal conversation can continue.


9. Leverage natural forces

Within an organization, there are always people who have more energy than others. It could be a personality trait, or it could be just because our lives are different. To drive certain processes, it’s often good to involve those who have the energy and interest to take the wheel.

However, in a larger organization, it may be difficult to know who those people are. Chances are that you would pick the same people over and over again. With Howspace, you can present a challenge or an assignment and ask people to sign up to participate. This way, it’s easy for you to reach out to people that you may not have thought of originally.

Another possibility with Howspace is to leverage peer communication. When asked who people prefer to ask for advice when making a decision, people normally would answer “people like me”. Yes, we tend to prefer taking advice from people that we identify with. Howspace makes it possible to bring those informal leaders out into the limelight. They will naturally engage in conversations, and their words will be spread much wider and much faster than anyone else’s.


10. Keep an eye on the force field

Today, Kurt Lewin’s change theories from the 50’s are as relevant as ever. His force field analysis, with which you analyze the forces that are working for and against the change, is useful for understanding what needs to be done in order to move to the right direction. And since change is a constant movement, the driving and restricting forces will also change over time. New obstacles may turn up along the way and if they’re not properly addressed, they could put change to a halt.  

That's why it’s important to keep up a constant dialogue about what’s slowing us down, and what could help us. This dialogue is easy to keep up in Howspace, and not only because the platform allows you to bring up the issue but also because the platform allows you to involve the right people. When an input is placed in Howspace, it’s easy to appoint a person who needs to take responsibility for it.

But don’t just take our word for it! Start your free trial of Howspace today to see how your organization could drive more effective change through collaboration.