How to announce organizational change in your first 90 days

Originally posted Feb 13, 2023 • More resources on effective communication

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Congrats, you’ve made it through your first 2 months as a new hire in a leadership role! You’re in the home stretch of this initial season.

You took advantage of the first 30 days in the role to build trust by employing “sponge mode.” You asked lots of questions, genuinely listened to your teammates’ answers, and avoided enacting any sweeping, permanent changes to the way work gets done.

Then you leveraged what you learned during those first 30 days by announcing and running two experiments for change. These experiments were born of the concerns you heard that were most important to folks on the team and carefully constructed to identify tradeoffs. You promised to communicate the results of those experiments next.

So, here we are!

Gather the results of your experiments

As the experiments wrap up, check in on those measures of success that you identified and shared with your team. Document the information that you were able to glean: how did each experiment impact metrics, sentiment, and the other things that your teammates care about?

You might have a jumble of notes; that’s okay! Group your running list of experiment outcomes, measures of success, and surprises into the following areas:

  1. The themes you heard from your teammates in your first 30 days (or how the experiment was crafted to directly address concerns)
  2. Results tracked to your success metrics (quantitative and qualitative)
  3. Surprises and new learnings that came up along the way
  4. Open questions you (or others) still have that should be answered before any lasting change is decided upon

If either of the experiments weren’t a success, it’s not only okay, it’s great info. With whatever the results show you, you can decide what to do next. Maybe you’ll want to craft a new experiment or maybe the success is that you know that whatever you were experimenting with isn’t the right move after all.

In addition to measuring those success metrics, note any surprises that came up along the way. These may have been things you are surprised by, or things that other folks shared surprise about as the experiment was running. (There are some examples in a footnote if you need them!)

Decide on changes

Take the work you did above (experiment outcomes, measures of success, and surprises that relate to the themes you heard from your teammates in your first 30 days) and decide: what lasting change(s) will you decide to implement and announce as a result of these experiments?

Maybe you’re going to announce something disruptive like a reorg, or brand new roadmap. Or maybe you’ll announce a chance to processes like sprint planning. Large or small, fill out this template for each change:

The What
Here’s what’s changing:
(If it’s relevant) Here’s what’s not going to change: 
The Who
Here’s who’s impacted by the change:
The When
Here’s the timeline for the change:
The why
Here’s why this change matters to folks:
Build trust
Here’s some concerns or tradeoffs we're acknowledging:
Here’s what you’ll be continuing to measure or check in on going forward:
Here’s who to reach out to with feedback, concerns, or questions about this change going forward:

I’m using our communication plan template as the foundation for this table. You may not share all of the information in this table with the whole team, but by walking through this template, you can feel better-prepared for communicating the change and navigating the response.

Communicate the experiment results

Choose a medium that feels normal for your organization and appropriate to the scale of the change: a part of an all hands meeting, a special meeting just for this information, a launch email, whatever feels right. If you’re not sure about what medium is appropriate, get a gut-check from a trusted colleague.

Kick things off by recapping what the first experiment was and what you were measuring (both measures of success, and any issues folks were concerned about). Then share the results of this first experiment. Include:

Here’s an example outcome you might announce:

“We’ll use this new candidate assessment rubric going forward. We’ll consider this a living document that lives on our wiki; I’m excited to continue to adapt this document for the organization as we learn more, and hire for different kinds of roles, too.”

Add anything else from the template above that you think would be helpful for folks to hear. Remember, you’re still building trust with the team.

Go through the same recap for your second experiment, then open the floor up for your teammates to ask you questions. This is crucial to maintaining that trust you’ve built so far! You’ve prepared for hesitancy, pushback, and concerns using the template above. My #1 tip is to continue to tie the change back to the themes you heard from folks in the first 30 days.

That said, change is scary! It might take some time for your teammates to get on board with the change(s); here are some tips on navigating your colleague’s resistance to big news. Additionally, make it clear how folks can share feedback with you (or the person who will be responsible for any change going forward).

You’ve got this! I know bracing yourself for teammates’ reactions to change might make you want to tiptoe through this process, launch changes without this prep and communication approach, or avoid making these decisions altogether. But as a leader, you’re responsible for making informed, intentional changes that help your team—and as you learned in your first 30 days, your teammates are already hungry for some things to evolve. :)

Remember, these first 90 days are the best chance you’ll get at building a strong foundation of trust with your team. When you approach organizational changes with active listening skills, measurable experiments, and proactive communication, you’ll find yourself in a much stronger position to lead this team going forward.

In summary

First 30 days: sponge mode

  1. Hold one-on-ones with everybody
  2. Identify 1-2 overarching themes you’ve heard
  3. Convey what you’ve absorbed
  4. State how people can communicate with you going forward

Keep in mind: you’re not changing anything yet, just listening

30-60 days: experiment with two ideas for change!

  1. Craft two experiments
  2. Develop your communication plan
  3. Implement your experiments

Keep in mind: you’re not changing anything yet, just experimenting

60-90 days: decide on and communicate change

  1. Gather the results of your experiments
  2. Decide on changes
  3. Communicate the experiment results and any changes you’re implementing
  4. Follow-through with future comms and check-ins

** Some examples of what might have been a surprise:

Woman speaking to camera with video player buttons underneathWant to communicate more effectively?

Check out my new Setting Expectations as a Manager video course to balance being empowering and being directive as a leader, and know when to switch up your approach. Or hire me to train these skills at your organization!

Lara Hogan

Author, public speaker, and coach for managers and leaders across the tech industry.

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