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Leading Your Team Through Disruptive Organizational Change

Organizations are always changing. Look around and take note of what’s changed for your team within the last year. While all changes should be handled with care, some require a purposeful change management effort because they are much bigger than simply tweaking a work process or updating a policy—they are disruptive. CAUTION: Those little ones can turn out to blowup into big problems too.

These seismic shifts can reshape entire industries, redefine consumer expectations, and transform organizations from within. As leaders, understanding disruptive change and implementing effective change management strategies is essential for your organization’s survival and growth.

What Is Disruptive Change Within Organizations?

Disruptive change occurs when the fundamental concepts and processes within an organization start to shift. Unlike incremental adjustments, which allow gradual adaptation, disruptive change demands strategic responses from leadership. Here are examples you may have encountered:

Leadership Transitions

  • A change in top leadership can significantly impact an organization’s direction, culture, and decision-making processes.
  • New leaders bring fresh perspectives, alter priorities, and set the tone for the entire workforce.
  • The impact of this sort of change happens as soon as people become aware that one leader is leaving. They know that when the new person arrives, their world is going to get rocked.

Technological Transformations

  • The adoption of new technologies—such as artificial intelligence, automation, or a new ERP system—can revolutionize how an organization operates.
  • Existing workflows, roles, and skill requirements may undergo radical shifts.

Mergers and Acquisitions

  • Combining forces with another company or acquiring a competitor can lead to substantial organizational changes.
  • Integration of cultures, systems, and processes becomes critical.
  • Within larger organizations, major reorganizations create similar feelings for teams that have been combined or split up.

Business Model Disruptions

  • Innovations or market shifts can render existing business models obsolete.
  • Organizations must adapt swiftly to stay relevant and competitive.
  • Changing work models are also hugely disruptive. Exhibit 1: Work from home vs. Return to office.

Cultural Evolution

  • Changes in organizational culture impact employee behavior, collaboration, and overall performance.
  • Even changes made for the best possible reasons, such as a shift toward collaboration, agility, or prevention can still be disruptive.

Effective Change Management Strategies for Internal Disruptions

  1. Assess Your Resources: Take stock of existing talent, skills, and capabilities. Identify areas that need upskilling or realignment to thrive in the new landscape.
  2. Transparent Communication: Clearly communicate the reasons behind internal changes. Give your team a way to provide their feedback. Address concerns, provide context, and involve employees throughout the transition.
  3. Engage: Draw people in by demonstrating how the changes make their life better. Make it cool and exciting. Involve employees in shaping the new direction and celebrate milestones.
  4. Craft a Clear Roadmap: Develop a detailed plan for implementing internal changes. Set timelines, milestones, and assign responsibilities.
  5. Address Resistance Head-On: Anticipate resistance from employees. Empathize, listen, and address concerns constructively.
  6. Avoid Rushing: Gradual adoption often yields better results than abrupt upheaval. Allow time for adjustment, learning, and alignment.

Remember, disruptive changes within organizations represent both challenges and opportunities. By managing them effectively, organizations can thrive in a dynamic environment. Embrace change—it’s the catalyst for growth and innovation.

If you would like someone to help you craft your change management strategy or partner with you from beginning to end, I’d be happy to discuss your initiative and how I could help. Grab a time on my calendar.

Tom LaForce, President, LaForce Teamwork Inc.