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Enterprise-Wide Change: Keys to a Successful Journey

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Organizations must constantly adapt to remain competitive. Digital transformations, lean operating system implementations, and diversity, equity, and inclusion programs are popular enterprise-wide initiatives that require wide-scale transformation. For these efforts to succeed, employees at all levels of the organization must adopt new skills, mindsets, and behaviors.

Organizational culture persists based on ingrained values and practices that are resistant to change. It affects all aspects of how we work together including how we make decisions, communicate, and hold one another accountable. An organization’s existing culture may either enable or create a barrier to change. Either way, understanding the current state of the culture is necessary when architecting a change program because the extent and nature of the change required depends on the gap between the current culture and the desired future state.

Why Enterprise-Wide Change Is Difficult

Planning and coordinating wide-scale change requires leadership involvement across functions throughout the hierarchy. Consider these factors when you’re implementing new initiatives:

  • Corporate strategy is defined at the top, but it must be translated through the layers of an organization. Although it can be difficult enough to align an executive team, leaders and employees throughout the organization have to understand what is required of them to achieve transformation.
  • Communicating change is difficult because various groups, roles, and levels experience the change differently, which requires distinct behavior adjustments. Employees must understand what is expected of them, which may be difficult to articulate. There are many architects and translators of the change; coordinating these voices can be daunting.
  • Change requires shifting systems and processes, and it takes time to define and implement new processes. Further, some processes are precursors to others and create dependencies. Change management can feel like a house of cards—making a change in one area can cause the entire structure to fall. Planning the optimal sequence and timing of process changes is critical.


Preparing for Enterprise-Wide Change

PhDs Jay Galbraith and John Kotter provide models that help prepare us for the challenge of wide-scale change. First, understand and articulate aspects of the organization that will enable or create resistance to the change. Galbraith’s Star Model outlines factors that must be aligned to redesign an organization, including strategy, structure, processes, rewards, and people capability, and how to align them to enable change. A thorough current- and future-state analysis using his framework provides a roadmap for the journey.

Kotter’s 8-Step Process for Leading Change encourages us to create a powerful coalition and volunteer army and focus on early wins to create energy. Most importantly, develop a means to assess the impact and ensure support structures exist and necessary training and coaching is present throughout the journey.


These models set change initiatives up for success. Along with this guidance, some specific best practices to consider include:

  • Gain top leader alignment. Change can happen bottom-up, but most employees look to bosses and senior leadership for direction. Executive team alignment and public support for the change are critical.
  • Form a cross-functional team and define a managing structure for the program early on. Ensure the right stakeholders are engaged through the journey to create alignment across groups and functions at every step.
  • Define the behavior change required to guide the implementation. Use this definition as the basis for training and development efforts.
  • Engage L&D and the communication teams as key partners, but don’t use them as a crutch. Training is necessary—but not sufficient—to create change. Leadership engaging with employees to support them and hold them accountable is just as valuable.
  • Focus on awareness by all and ensure a clear understanding of expectations by role. Maintain consistency of message while customizing the learning for the individual, role, function, and team.
  • Create a system to gauge progress and communicate the impact of the change.

Enterprise-wide change is difficult, but organizations that do it well have a competitive advantage. Timeless tools like Galbraith’s Star Model and Kotter’s 8-Step Process for Leading Change provide guidance; ultimately, planning and change management to achieve alignment across departments, roles, and levels are the keys to a successful journey.

If you’re interested in learning more or have best practices of your own to share, join me at the ATD 2022 International Conference & EXPO for the session Design a Development Program to Support Enterprise-Wide Change.

About the Author

Lisa Dahmus is an organizational development director with more than 20 years of experience developing training programs and leading culture change initiatives in corporations and nonprofits, including Dow, DuPont, Honeywell, and currently, Vertiv. Lisa earned a BS in chemical engineering from the University of Texas and an MBA from the University of Michigan. In her free time, Lisa enjoys figure skating and spending time with her sisters, niece, and nephews.

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