Welcome to Stage 6 in the series of articles that discuss managing change. You've reached the final stage of making and managing change within your organization: Integration. During this stage, you are able to fully incorporate the changes you've worked on in the five initial stages that built employee commitment to change.
Stage 6: Integration of the Changes
During the integration stage, the organization makes the changes it has worked on become part of the way the organization does business. The changes become integral to how the organization functions. Employees may no longer remember how the organization worked prior to the changes. Or, their memories have faded to the point of not caring about the old ways of doing things. They have faced and overcome their fears about failure and not progressing.
To accomplish this final stage, you must build the changes into all of the systems and processes in the organization so that the changes are fundamental to how you work. So, the changes will have an impact on how you hire employees, how you provide recognition and what you recognize, and how you measure the success and contributions of employees.
Refreeze Your Organization Following Change
In the initiation/awareness stage and the investigation stage, you were introduced to the concept of unfreezing your organization so that you could unlearn your old behavior patterns before changes could happen. You met Kurt Lewin who made suggestions about how your organization could unfreeze to allow the introduction of the changes.
During this stage, Lewin recommends that your organization must refreeze following the changes that have happened. To do this, management must do all that is possible to stabilize your organization at the new level of functioning. Before they do this, however, you must assess whether the changes you have made are performing at the new level you desired.
Time passing, reinforcement of the changes, and understanding are required to refreeze the organization at the new level. People have a tendency to fall back into the comfort zone of old, rehearsed behaviors unless managers and staff members are ever vigilant and constantly supportive of the new behaviors.
Identify Additional Needs for Changes
This stage can take much longer than anticipated as employees' new behaviors are reinforced, recognized, and rewarded. Note, too, that your initial changes are likely to create the need for additional changes.
Permanently integrating the changes into the organization requires that change leaders and managers address these additional changes needed in the rest of the organization in response to the initial changes. Ask yourself questions such as which other systems will need updating?
For example, if the changes you made involved moving from a workplace full of individual contributors to the formation of employees on work teams, a lot will need to change. You’ll need to address rewards and recognition systems to reward employees for contributing effectively as team members.
You’ll need to change the performance management system to reinforce teamwork. You’ll need to change employee pay systems to make part of the raises or bonuses dependent on their contribution to the overall team. Rather than setting all individual goals, you will need to have shared team goals.
It’s difficult to fully integrate changes unless you change the other work processes to support and reinforce the changes you made.
Systems and Processes That Will Need Changing
During the integration stage, managers and team members should focus on the following systems.
- Your organization may need to hire employees who have new skills and experience as a result of the need for the ongoing support of the changes.
- Orientation for new employees will need to incorporate the changes.
- You will need to rewrite the employee handbook to incorporate the changes.
- You are likely to need ongoing technical training classes for new hires and to upgrade the skills of your current employees.
- You will need to continue to train employees in change management and in any human relations skills that need upgrading for your changed organization.
- Make decisions about how you will need to structure your organization following the changes. Make a commitment to communicate the what, why, and how of the changes quickly and in detail to the employees.
- Consider the personal reactions of organizational members who may lose power, authority or status in the new organizational structure; investigate ways to compensate or ameliorate their loss.
Rewards and Recognition
- Develop new reward systems, including changes to performance management processes, to reinforce the integration of the change into your organization.
- Consider how your informal employee recognition system will reward or react to the changes.
- Plan and celebrate with your employees as you fully integrate the changes into your organization. Yes, this sixth stage deserves celebrations in addition to the ones you've held along the way.
- Develop ongoing and consistent approaches to communication such as weekly all-company meetings, weekly department meetings, written updates in Yammer, or whatever electronic communication systems you use.
- Provide continual feedback to your employees about the status of the organizational changes.
- Provide continual feedback to your employees about the status of their own performance within the systems that were newly created to accomplish the changes.
What Will Happen If the Organization Fails in Integrating the Changes?
Failure to change the processes and systems to support and reinforce the changes will make it difficult or impossible for your organization to ever fully integrate the changes. Likewise, failure to refreeze your organization into the changing landscape will affect your ability to integrate the changes.
You do not want to have employees see that you were not serious about implementing the changes. They have invested untold energy—both psychic and otherwise—in moving through these six stages of change. If you allow the changes to fall by the wayside, you are creating an environment in which employees will be less likely and even unwilling to change again in the future. Remember, fool me once, shame on thee, fool me twice, shame on me.
Your employees will develop change ennui or weariness if you ask them to change too often. But, nothing slows down needed changes more significantly than employees who feel you fooled them in the past.
See the six stages involved in change management.