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When it Comes to Change, Timing is Everything

Updated: Aug 12, 2020

Any organization-wide change, no matter how effective it seems on paper, has to be accepted by the employees. Ultimately, they're going to be the ones who put it into action, and if they don't understand it — or worse yet, are actively resentful of it — the shift you spent so long conceptualizing will inevitably be a failure.

And when that happens, the blame often falls upon the person who suggested the change in the first place. So your success depends on framing the change you want in the proper context.

Timing is critical. Any major alterations will inevitably cause a disruption in your company's workflow, at least at first: is your organization capable of handling it at this time? If the change that you're suggesting would jeopardize the success of other significant projects, it's important to make sure that you're fully prepared for any possible contingencies.

How are your employees feeling? How many changes has your organization gone through in the last 12 – 18 months? Do the associates have "change fatigue?" Have you conducted a change readiness assessment? That doesn't have to be a project in itself, just a simple questionnaire or interview.

On the other hand, sometimes a shake-up is necessary. If business is under pressure to perform better, your staff is unmotivated, or the company culture as a whole seems lacking, it could be time for a major shift. Determine what level of change is actually required. Not all changes require the same effort. Forbes contributor Glenn Llopis describes the importance of this balancing act.

"Timing is the single most important component to gaining initial "buy-in" to the change that you are selling. The right timing can build the required momentum to get your colleagues, senior management and the board room excited about your idea(s). You must possess extreme patience with the right amount of knowledge to determine your timing," he explains.

We have found that leaders often plan for change long before they tell the employees. Sometimes they assume that others will get on board as quickly, even though they may not have the broader perspective of the reasons why change is needed. We encourage early communication about the context of the change to everyone, filling people in on the situation that is the catalyst for it.

In the end, it's a delicate balance: wait too long and you might miss your window. Try to execute change too early and you might wind up crashing through that window, leaving pieces that can't be put back together again. Plan your timing for change effectively, and see your organization succeed.

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