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Change Agents
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Your Organization Should Be Ready for 6 Major Changes This Year

Tuesday, April 5, 2016
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Think of a time when you made a major change in your life: Maybe you got married, bought your first house, moved out of state, or even just got a new pet. You took the time to plan for the new step in your life, and you probably didn’t try to tackle several life changes at once.

Like individuals, organizations experience major changes as well, such as mergers, acquisitions, CEO turnover, and rebranding. These changes usually happen more quickly and more often than any one person can handle, so it is critical that everyone works together to make the process smooth and successful.

With 70 percent of organizational change initiatives ending in failure, most organizations can learn a thing or two about managing change. This blog series explores some key facts and causes of organizational change and how to effectively manage change in your organization. 

According to ATD research, 61 percent of organizations experience at least three major changes every year, and 26 percent experience at least six. That’s like getting married, having twins, buying a house, changing careers, getting a new pet, and starting a new diet in a 12-month period. Sound crazy? Maybe—but an ATD and Institute for Corporate Productivity research report on change management, sponsored by NYU Stern, found several key findings about managing change. The report was based on surveys from 765 business and learning professionals across the globe in a variety of industries. Here is what they found. 

Rapid Change Is the New Norm

There is no reason to change something in your organization for the sake of change; however, the number of major changes and the speed at which they take place has increased. This means organizations need to be more agile and open-minded to effectively manage new programs. Does your organization’s culture have tools that allow for fast organizational shifts, such as open communication channels

High-Performing Organizations Have Mastered Change Management

The majority of high-performing organizations report six or more major changes during a year. This suggests that they are able to be nimble and thoughtful throughout the process. They do not become overwhelmed during changes and keep the end goal in mind.

Money Is the Root of All Change

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In the ATD survey, 51 percent of respondents said that an increase in revenue or sales were two factors that drove organizational change. These were followed by economic changes, cost-saving efforts, and market changes. 

With organizational changes directly and indirectly linked to monetary causes, leaders should ask how a change is going to improve organizational standing and will ensure that their goal is reached. Create an objective goal, such as a profitability or market share target, to measure the change’s effectiveness.

Make Sure Everyone Knows Who’s Accountable

According to ATD research, CEOs are often accountable for the end results of a large organizational change. Others responsible include department managers, C-level executives, vice presidents, and HR leaders. It should come as no surprise that change management typically is the responsibility of higher-ranking leaders; however, when CEOs were accountable for change, there was a decrease in the organization’s overall market performance. Make sure you know who is in charge of the outcomes and that it is the right person or people; don’t just automatically assign responsibility to the person at the top of the organization.

The Learning Function Should Stay in the Loop

While the change process itself can be a challenge, don’t overlook the training aspect—for example, workers may need to be trained in new skills, processes, or values following an acquisition. Leaders will better position themselves and their teams if they think about these potential training challenges ahead of time: 

  • Has the learning function been involved during the whole planning process, including planning, design, and execution? 
  • Is there a strong timeline in place for the learning function? 
  • Are you providing the learning department with enough funding for successful training? 

The Ultimate Barrier for the Learning Department Is Culture

When it comes to the learning department’s overall ability to effectively deliver training related to changes, 39 percent of survey respondents claimed inefficiencies in training are due to company-wide resistance to change. If you are in an organization resistant to change, you will first need to conquer culture change. Once everyone has a new mindset that welcomes change, not only will changes happen more seamlessly, but those creating training programs supporting the change will have a more captive audience.

Change happens at every level of an organization. Make sure you are at the top of your change game; check out the research report Change Agents: The Role of Organizational Learning in Change Management for a complete analysis of organizational change. Stay tuned for the next blog on best practices for handling change. 

Do you have insights based on a major change in your organization? Leave a comment about your experience and how you overcame the challenges presented by change.

About the Author

Clara Von Ins is the Human Capital Specialist at the Association for Talent Development (ATD). Prior to working for ATD, Clara worked for the American Red Cross as the disaster program coordinator in Santa Barbara, California.


Clara received an bachelor’s degree from the Ohio State University in psychology and education. She is currently attending the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill remotely to obtain a master’s degree in public administration with an emphasis on nonprofit management and community and economic development. 

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