Navigating your Team Through Change to Foster Organizational Success

As a leader, why is helping yourself and your team manage through change so important? We all know our personal lives, the communities we live in and the organizations we contribute to are in constant change. Sometimes changes are bigger than others, they can be disruptive and have huge impacts. The ability to successfully accept and embrace change, for leaders and employees alike, is fundamental to individual, community and organizational resilience and success.

As a change leader it is your role and responsibility to facilitate change, whether you are at ease or in agreement with the change or not. Being able to manage change – both small and large – has become a competency that leaders must have in order to succeed and support their teams, organizations and communities in reaching their goals.

Knowing how to navigate your team through change will have many all-around positive impacts such as[i]:

➜ Improving the adoption of the change by your impacted employees

➜ Improving the comfort and proficiency of your employees with the change

➜ Reducing the time and cost required to make the change

Get onboard with the needed change

Before getting into how you can support your team through change, you first need to support yourself. You may not be on board with all change initiatives or organizational decisions, but it is your responsibility to support the best decision for the organization as a whole. It’s really all about perspective. There are as many perspectives as there are individuals in the world. If you can shift your perspective, you will be in a great position to support your employees who themselves may be resisting or struggling with the change.

Having a solid change management strategy and specific action plans (communication, training, etc.) certainly help to lead employees through change but based on our experience partnering with First Nation governments and organizations, even without formal change management competency training, there are many “change-facilitating” actions you can take now to help your team.

It helps to know about the 3 States of Change[ii].

The current state is when the change is announced. This is the stage where leaders communicate a vision or business case for the change. Leaders offer opportunities for dialogue in order to encourage themselves and their employees to gain awareness of the need to change and fuel the desire to support and participate in the change.

The transition state is when the change is happening and where leaders and employees gain knowledge on how to go about the change as well as develop skills and embrace the behaviours required to implement the change.

The future state is when change is reinforced to ensure it is integrated, lived and sustained over time. Leaders are not only reinforcing the change through leading by example, identifying pockets of resistance and taking actions to mitigate resistance but mainly celebrating successes throughout the change journey.

Naturally, at any stage in the change cycle, employees may choose to resist the change, which can have negative impacts on the potential success of a change initiative. Alternatively, making the choice to embrace a change can have a positive impact on the adoption of the change, and this is where your role as a leader and change champion comes in, even in situations where you yourself are struggling with the change in question.

How can you mobilize your team towards positive outcomes before, during and after the change?

Organizations don’t change, people change – and every successful organizational change starts with at the individual level, its’ people.

Jeffrey M. Hiatt, a well know entrepreneur and author, has created the ADKAR model for change[iii]. The ADKAR model is composed of elements that act as building blocks – each stage building onto the next to ensure the smooth implementation and success of a change initiative:

“The elements of the ADKAR model fall into the natural order of how one person experiences change. Desire cannot come before awareness because it is the Awareness of the need for change that stimulates our Desire or triggers our resistance to that change. Knowledge cannot come before desire because we do not seek to know how to do something that we do not want to do. Ability cannot come before knowledge because we cannot implement what we do not know. Reinforcement cannot come before ability because we can only recognize and appreciate what has been achieved.” (ADKAR a model for change in business, government and community, Jeffrey M. Hiatt 2006 p.3)

The ADKAR model can be used to facilitate change both at the individual and the organizational level. Many large and small public and private sector organizations adopt the ADKAR model because it focuses on people and their needs, not just the technical requirements of a project. Focusing on people allows organizations to build their internal change management capacity, to integrate change management and project management activities, to increase project return on investment, to increase internal and external user adoption and to speed-up the deployment process, etc.

Keeping the ADKAR model in mind, as a people leader and change champion, understanding where you are at in your own readiness for change, as well as where your employees are at will help you strategize and plan steps on how to facilitate change throughout each state (current, transition and future) of the change process.

Examples of actions that you could take as a change leader

For mature groups, these examples could also be applied in the context of the team. While job specific changes will be reviewed at an individual level, high-level overall discussion around potential future structural and process changes could be explored as a group. In this context, if the team is not mature enough to have an objective discussion about the changes, we would strongly recommend using the services of a certified change management practitioner to facilitate the team exercise.

Becoming a skilled change champion takes time and practice. Like anything else, change management competencies can be developed with the right support and tools. Leaders should always be confident to ask questions of their own leadership teams and seek support from their peers.

Being personally open to change, actively participating, and most importantly consistently communicating with your team will go a long way to fostering success for your organization.


[i] Prosci inc. (2019). Prosci Change Management Certification Program. Fort Collins, CO : Author

[ii] Prosci inc. (2019). Prosci Change Management Certification Program. Fort Collins, CO : Author

[iii] Hiatt, J.M. (2006). ADKAR: A model for change in business, government and our community. Fort Collins, CO: Prosci Reasearch