Organizational Change and Uncertainty

The pace of change in organizational responsiveness and growth has increased incrementally with new technologies and globalization. Change is the new norm, and part of growth and transformation. Inevitably, what comes with change are feelings of uncertainty. It is critical during times of organizational change to consider the impact on the people (stakeholders) involved. Even when the change is perceived as a completely positive initiative, it’s still change!

Change can bubble-up feelings of uncertainty in everyone involved. During change, communication is critical to: ease the transition; maintain the trust; and stabilize the message. The key to effective communication during change is that it is two-way, with feedback loops. Timing is also critical; communication needs to start as soon as possible. Keep in mind that if there is a void, or gap in communication, it leaves a space for assumptions to rush in.

If change is managed effectively it can be transformational, and a time to revitalize an organization… as long as everyone is on-board. Caswey, Desza & Inglos (2016) offer that creating a strategy map is key, and within that strategy map consider the belief systems and values of the stakeholders.
Also, be sure to anticipate, thoroughly, perceptions and interpretations of the change. In essence, talk with the people involved, and ask them what they think and feel.

The following are a few strategies to ensure consistent, and clear communication during the change process:

  • Don’t make assumptions that everyone is “on board” without asking them. Just because you think it’s a good idea, someone else may not. Learning from others’ points of views, helps to expand understanding, and usually helps to create a more thorough strategy for change.
  • Don’t let the message / communication get ahead of you during change. Assumptions, biases, differing motives and beliefs can cloud the message, unless you get ahead of it making it clear and loud from the get-go.
  • Make sure the message is clear, succinct, and digestible. A lot of corporate speak may dilute the message and meaning, as well as leave people out. Even the most complex changes can be articulated if hashed-out and whittled down properly.
  • Never underestimate the anxiety that bubbles up during change, even if the change is positive. Change is experienced by everyone in different ways, and change is the unknown. Even if the change is exciting, it will likely produce feelings of uncertainty.
  • Check in frequently with stakeholders. Talk to everyone involved, and keep talking with them. The more information and intel you can gather about how the change is being processed, the better you can navigate the ship.
  • Put feedback systems in place so that communication stays two-way. One-way communication doesn’t invite everyone on board the bus; opening channels of communication not only gets people more engaged, it helps make a better strategy by incorporating different perspectives and experiences.
  • Think it through. All the way through. Change is complex, and its impact has resonance. Ask yourself: who will be impacted, and in what way? This will help to prepare for the inevitable: the unexpected.

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