Change Management: Is Your Organization Change Competent?– July 28, 2017

Posted by Matt Steinberg

We all have habits. Some are beneficial, like brushing your teeth, while others … well, let’s just say we’ve been wanting to change our late night ice cream habit for a while now. But change is hard (and ice cream is delicious).
When a company has been conducting business the same way for decades, it’s difficult to change, especially when ingrained cultural habits and operational procedures have led to success over the years. There’s often an attitude of, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” But that no longer works in today’s business environment. 

Why Change Management

Change management used to be a competitive advantage for a choice few companies, but it is more and more becoming table stakes in the game of business. Markets have evolving demands, and millennials in the workforce have new expectations for their employer and their job, making it difficult to find and retain talented employees. Traditional functional hierarchies are struggling to keep up. They can be cumbersome, frustrating staff and preventing valuable innovations from surfacing.
Companies that rely on tried-and-true methods to ensure quality, consistency and results can be caught off guard by the inconvenient reality of rapid change in the marketplace. The current business climate requires a new outlook: “Smooth sailing today doesn't ensure success for tomorrow!” Change management must become a competency, not an occasional chore, to ensure your organization continues to evolve strategically and effectively. 

Components of Change Management

There are three main components to effective change management that must become second nature in a change competent organization: vision, strategy and execution.
1. Vision
A vision of a better destination sets the direction and the tone, helping to maintain morale. Strategy follows vision, then execution follows strategy.
A good strategy translates the vision for a better future into actionable steps, anticipates challenges and provides guidance for decision making. There will inevitably be unforeseen challenges, but a solid strategy provides guiding principles to align the organization’s leadership. Strategy provides the ability to adapt to issues as they arise. Working with your advisors, you must ensure that all the bases are covered and the organization is well equipped for the road ahead.
3. Execution
Execution is the toughest part. This is where implementation occurs and changes take place. It’s imperative to execute well to avoid causing frustrations and low morale. There are five categories to consider to be successful: 

  • People: Management must understand how individuals and groups experience change. Many headaches can be avoided through thoughtful motivation and empathy. A focus on learning principles and psychology can also mean the difference between change “sticking,” or not.
  • Communication: This is key! People need to know what is changing and why if they are going to buy in and fully engage in the process. Who does each message come from? When does the information need to be sent? How will the message be received? These are all key questions that need to be addressed.
  • Guiding Principles: Rapid decisions need to be made, and long approval processes are often not practical. Guiding principles can give employees autonomy to make decisions within limits that ensure everyone remains aligned towards the common goals.
  • Capabilities: Each organization has unique strengths. You will need to rely on staff and organizational capabilities to leverage strengths and mitigate weaknesses.
  • Flexibility: Absent a crystal ball, no one can predict the future. No plan will be perfect, so you must anticipate the need to be flexible and make adjustments as you lead the organization through change. 

Each stage presents challenges to overcome, requiring an informed and proven approach. But with proper planning and support, and the right team of experts beside you, instituting change can be a positive experience and lead to great things for your organization.
Contact Matt Steinberg at, Jim Boland at or a member of your service team for further discussion.

Cohen & Company is not rendering legal, accounting or other professional advice. Any action taken based on information in this blog should be taken only after a detailed review of the specific facts and circumstances.