Changing the Change Rules at Google


At Google, change is constant. But how we managed and messaged change wasn’t always working. So we developed a simple framework to rethink reorgs and it starts by asking “Do we even need this change?”

There is no single way that Google manages internal change, like a reorganization. But we’ve been piloting a new approach that has been used in different parts of the company, impacting thousands of Googlers.

Research shows that over two-thirds of organizational change efforts fail to deliver on their intended goals. We studied some of the classic change management models, but to be most effective, these models assume you know what you’re transforming into. But at Google, we often don’t have a static endstate were looking for; we need to maintain a fluidity in our structures to support the pace of our business.

We needed to start the dialogue around change earlier and force important questions, starting with “does this change actually need to happen?” We came up with a four-step approach to business-driven organizational change we call "ChangeRules." Four analytical questions drivethis approach:

We started by testing this approach with a customer-supporting group and we quickly realizedthe leadership team wasn’t aligned on why they needed to change. So we spent time initially discussing what problem we were solving and we involved our managers in what the changes to the service model would be. This approach resulted in 100% of managers understanding the change and 80% of their teams understanding the change (up from 50%), resulting in a 90% adoption rate.

We’ve also seen the model help us avoid a reorganization. In one instance, a new leader took over an existing org and wanted to move things around. But in using this framework, we asked why any change needed to happen and what the desired future state was. We determined that a reorganization would not actually help the leader move the organization where they wanted.

But once you decide to make a change, how do you make it stick? When we use this framework, we do three things to “give legs to change efforts and improve outcomes:

1. Start with the “why” and “what.” As one of our leaders said, “Change is constant, but this framework allows us to test and clarify strategic business decisions before they are finalized.”

2. Go slow to go fast. As early as possible, involve employees in creating solutions, rather than just sharing decisions, and you’ll front load the toughest conversations and make it easier to bring everyone along.

3. Commit to landing, not just launching. Be sure you’re focused on effecting the change, not just announcing it.

After, how do you know if you’ve been successful? Determine what you’re looking to achieve and measure before making a change. You can measure organizational health metrics (e.g. employee surveys, skills development, attrition) as well as business performance (e.g. customer satisfaction, product adoption rates).

To thrive, companies must be open to change, and equally open to rethinking how they approach change management. Asking the right questions and involving all stakeholders in the process is a framework that can help companies evolve.


This blog was originally posted on re:Work blog.



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