Change is a fact of life, something that we all have to deal with despite our best efforts to resist it. When dealing with change as a business however, there are definite hurdles and drawbacks that need to be accounted for, especially since the knock-on effects of any organizational change will be a blow to efficiency and therefore productivity no matter what you do to mitigate it.
By identifying what type of change you’re dealing with, you can start to understand how to plan for and how best to implement your changes while causing minimum disruptions to the organization’s daily goings on, allowing the change to happen without much fuss. Note that there will always be some level of resistance to change within your organization no matter how much you plan – resisting change is human nature after all.
Transformational change is about structure, about your goals and plans as an organization. Anything that would change the strategies that your business employs falls under the umbrella of transformational change.
This type of change is very situational, and plans can change in response to the ever-shifting markets and cultural trends. Digital transformation is an example of such a change, with the way that organizations think about and do things being rapidly transformed by the new technologies that are implemented.
This type of change can be among the slowest to plan and implement, as anything that would so radically alter a business’ goals needs to be carefully thought out lest it lead to disaster.
Remedial change is slightly different to the below categories of change, as it occurs retroactively when you already have all of the facts, in order to address poor performance or efficiency in your organization. Note that while this seems to imply that personnel are at fault, efficiency and performance issues can be as much a result of changing circumstances or lackluster leadership.
A great example of remedial change that takes us back a bit would be the introduction of ecommerce itself, with many retailers initially dismissing it as a fad or a sideshow that would never replace physical commerce, then scrambling to implement it during early 2020.
Remedial change is often the easiest to implement as you already have most of the facts about what went wrong, the only issue being how to solve it.
Organization Wide Change
Organization wide change is anything that happens on a large enough scale that it affects your entire organization. This can be changes in policy, implementing new software, using a new means of communication and more. It’s important to note that this type of change will affect every level within your organization.
This type of change requires careful planning, and needs details and flexibility to work. It’s all well and good to know what you want to implement, but if you fail to take into account the specific circumstances that different departments or teams find themselves in you won’t get very far. Information is key in this type of change, with planning often being done backwards starting from an end goal and branching out as different obstacles come into the picture. It’s not important that everybody gets going at the same rate, or even that they take the same route, compared to everyone arriving at the same endpoint.
Personnel change is exactly what it sounds like, any change in personnel that occurs within your organization. It may seem inconsequential compared to the large-scale changes mentioned above, but can be among the most critical due to its effect on employee morale.
Any change within a team is going to shake the stability of that environment, whether it’s new hires, layoffs, promotions etc. In the case of layoffs, a feeling of reduced job security might make your employees feel nervous about their future, whilst paradoxically new hires can have the same effect, with personnel wondering if they are going to be replaced. Empathy and reassurance can mitigate these fears, but can only go so far towards easing doubts.
Promotions, on the other hand, are more complex. When examining the change here you need to factor in that every team member has their own approach and flair to doing things – even when a standardized protocol is in place it can’t account for everything. When a promotion removes a player from the team and replaces them with someone who isn’t as familiar with how things are done this can have a damaging effect on productivity, especially in collaborative departments.
Another case of stating the obvious, unplanned change is simply any change that you didn’t account for making due to factors you didn’t foresee coming. These changes are among the most annoying and difficult to implement, especially if the changing circumstances that lead to them are still unstable, but they are necessary nonetheless. Unplanned change can overlap with any of the above three types of organizational change, the mere fact
The most striking example of this in recent years is obviously the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, with thousands of businesses having to shift their strategies to more digital approaches or close their doors due to lockdowns and restrictions.
Unplanned change can occur at any scale, and while it’s unlikely we’ll see another shift in the business environment as rapid as that which occurred in 2020, the lessons learned from it can be applied to other changes too.
Note that a change can fall into multiple categories, meaning that the strategies for coping with both types will need to be adapted in order to properly facilitate the change. For instance, the rapid digital transformation of retail businesses that occurred early in 2020 as lockdowns restricted the ability to use physical stores would fall under unplanned change for being unforeseen, organization wide change for its scope, and transformational change for the necessary changes to business strategies as the pandemic went on. Change is complex, and not something that can be done without preparation.