5 Tips on Managing Changes to Organizational Structure

Changes to organizational structure have ripple effects across a wide variety of business functions. 

The broad impacts of these changes make change management absolutely essential.

Failure to manage these changes can result in:

  • Pushback and resistance from employees
  • Damage to core business metrics, from employee productivity to customer satisfaction
  • Culture clashes and friction
  • Uncertainty, fear, and low morale

Among other things.

On the other hand, managed change can garner significant returns, such as:

  • Decreased costs
  • Improved morale
  • Lower failure rates
  • Reduced employee frustration and resistance

As with any other change management project, a sophisticated, well-structured approach is the key to success.

Let’s look at 5 ways to effectively manage and change organizational structure.

Managing Changes to Organizational Structure

In no particular order, here are 5 tips, techniques, tactics, and strategies that can help improve the results of structural change projects.

1. Understand the big picture that drives the change.

A merger, for example, can be considered a cause of restructuring. 

But go deeper…

  • What caused the merger? 
  • What market conditions fueled it? 
  • Who made the decision and why?

This information may seem irrelevant or beside the point, but it’s not.

Understanding the real reasons behind change is essential, for a few reasons:

  • Knowing the cause of a change helps you restructure appropriately. Restructuring an organization is no small feat – deep analysis of the cause can include everything from market analysis to understanding business intelligence. This will inform and improve the final structure you design.
  • You can explain these reasons to employees. As we’ll see below, explaining the “why” of change significantly improves support and lowers resistance.
  • Your change project depends on in-depth information. A well-built change project requires solid, thorough information. A big-picture analysis will help you design effective roadmaps to change and overcome obstacles.

These are just a few reasons to dive deep into an analysis of the causes behind change. 

2. Sell the benefits.

Employees want to know what’s in it for them.

After all, every change project requires more work, time, and effort.

Organizational restructuring projects are even more daunting…

Employees have to:

  • Integrate into new teams
  • Start from scratch when it comes to relationships and office politics
  • Learn new skills and workplace dynamics
  • Adapt to new workplace cultures and atmospheres

In some cases, restructuring a workplace is like changing jobs … for everyone, at the same time.

To reduce stress and resistance, sell employees on the benefit of the restructuring.

Explain how it benefits the organization, their team, and each person individually.

3. Design a multi-channel communication campaign.

Communication is absolutely critical during any change project. It can be even more important during volatile restructuring projects.

To counter the negative emotions produced from this uncertainty:

  • Communicate the causes for the change program in depth. Explain why it’s happening, as well as the negative effects of not changing.
  • Start early and finish late. Start employee onboarding well in advance of the change. The earlier you start, the easier it is for people to adjust.
  • Invite total participation and create feedback mechanisms. Don’t just encourage feedback, proactively solicit it. This will help you identify resistance and diffuse it.
  • Create a multi-channel campaign. An email blast or a meeting is not enough. Create multiple resources, online and off, so that everyone can engage with your project at their convenience.

Make sure that leaders also get involved. 

The more open, transparent, and democratic the process, the more involved the people.

4. Engage in extensive team-building.

A new organizational culture needs to be built.

One way to do this is through communication campaigns, as mentioned above.

Another way is through team-building, such as:

  • Social Events – Social events are a good way to break the ice and introduce new group dynamics. Starting with social events helps people initiate relationships without thinking about work. 
  • Meetings and Workshops – Work meetings help people “dip their toes into the pool” by introducing new dynamics, without plunging them headlong into the new work environment. 
  • Team-Building Exercises – A company should also consider team-building and change management exercises. Unlike social events, they compel people to work together as a team … which they will inevitably do once the restructuring is underway.

As change managers know, a stage-based approach is essential to gaining support from employees.

Team-building activities such as these can help employees feel at ease, which will decrease frustration and stress.

5. Roll out incrementally, review as you go, and continually improve.

Incremental rollout is a feature of any change management project.

That is, every element of your change project should be introduced gradually.

There are a few reasons for this:

  • Smaller changes are easier to implement than larger ones
  • It reduces shock, stress, and resistance to change
  • Relationships take time to develop – giving people time to prepare, even mentally, helps them adjust early on
  • Incremental rollout helps you learn at each stage, then incorporate that information into the next rollout

A stage-based project roadmap will help you clarify goals for each stage. 

Then, based on the results of that point in the journey, you can make adjustments before the next stage in the project.

Chris is the Lead Author & Editor of Change Blog. Chris established the Change blog to create a source for news and discussion about some of the issues, challenges, news, and ideas relating to Change Management.