FAO Capacity Development

How to plan organizational change

When carrying out an organization analysis, the first step is to analyse organizational performance using the Organizational Performance Assessment (OPA) tool. The next step is to plan relevant actions and interventions, which is explained below.

What is organizational change?
Organizational change is the process by which an organization improves its performance, regardless of the type of organization (government ministries, producer organizations, research or extension organizations, etc.).

When is organizational change effective, and why?
Organizational change can be a challenging process that affects everyone in the organization and takes time and commitment to take effect. The critical success factors of organizational change are:

  • Support and readiness for change among members of the organization
  • Consensus and commitment among all members of the organization about its vision, goals and values
  • Leadership support for organizational change
  • Involvement of members & staff in the change process
  • Clear communication throughout the change process to all members

How to plan and implement organizational change?
Having reflected on the organization’s strengths and weaknesses, and identified the opportunities for change, through an organizational performance analysis, the next step is to plan relevant actions and interventions.

The diagram below illustrates the four phases of an organization design and implementation process. These phases rely on the critical success factors outlined above, and focus on enhancing organizational performance via three interconnected areas: organizational capacity, organizational motivation, and the external environment. See related tool for further details about each of these areas.

1. Reflecting and modeling the future

During this phase a facilitator guides members of the organization to reflect on the findings of the organizational performance analysis, and develop shared and credible scenarios for the future. This is a discovery process, and typically appreciative inquiry techniques and visioning exercises are used to reveal the vision, needs and wishes of the people in the organization. This is the chance to create consensus and commitment among members of the organization for the change process ahead.

Suggested tools:

  • Visioning exercise: a process of creating a compelling statement about what an organization aspires to accomplish.
  • Scenario building: a structured method for constructing stories or scenarios that describe the outer limits of plausible futures.


2. Setting up the organizational change process

Having agreed on a vision and identified the goals, the organization is ready to create a structure that ensures the conditions are in place to start implementing change sustainably. This requires putting in place work processes dedicated specifically to the change process. Importantly, the structure should ensure that high-level support is maintained throughout the change process, and that a strong change team is in place to take charge of the whole process.

Suggested tools:

3. Implementation

This is the phase where projects and initiatives can begin. These initiatives may look to improve business processes, for example, or at addressing the organization’s working culture. It is crucial here to put in place a tracking system, in order to monitor the progress of the change initiatives, and learn about any adjustments required to keep the change process on course. Moreover, keeping all members of the organization informed, and where possible, involved, is very important for the success of the change process.

Suggested tools:

  • Collaboration meetings: a tool to support members of the organizations to participate and be involved in the change process.
  • Beginning to bridge the gaps: a plenary workshop session in which priorities are set to bridge the gaps between the current situation and the vision set in phase 1.


4. Integration

Integration means that the change has been assimilated into the organization’s work processes and identity. The success of the integration relies on the success of the previous phases.

Suggested tools:

  • After action review: a simple process used to capture the lessons learned from past successes and failures, with the goal of improving future performance.

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