Business Transformation

Organizational Change: What Every CEO Must Focus On

When you think of an organization and the processes, the buck usually stops on the CEO’s table. Recent happenings, especially the COVID-19 pandemic, have made this glaring.

Only organizations that were primed for eventualities and whose CEOs have resilience as one of their important traits to handle tumultuous situations survived. According to a report, 60% of closed businesses in the U.S. will not reopen because of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Taking into consideration the number of employees and their dependents, the closure will negatively affect, it’s a very bad occurrence. What this brings to focus immediately is the need for a holistic and periodic organizational change; if you depend on an incremental organizational change, your brand will not survive any upheaval in the business landscape.

It’s unfortunate that while you can come across steps and procedures to implement transformations and organizational changes, you hardly see anything that spells out the role of the CEO.

What will the CEO do in an organizational change? Will the roles of CEOs be different from those of other executives or the other stakeholders?

While there is no single model for organizational change, what the CEO does will largely depend on the urgency, extensiveness, and reasons for the organizational change; there will be the need to look at the capabilities and failings of the organization. The convictions and style of the CEO will eventually determine the outcome.

From which angle you look at it, organizational change can only be successful if the CEO embarks on considering the following:

1. Specifying the need and urgency of the organizational change 

You may not want to believe this, but employees are humans, and they will go the extra mile to accomplish what they believe in. Do they have the facts and figures? What measures does the CEO have in place to ensure their commitment?

It’s not uncommon to have pockets of resistance from employees when an organization decides to embark on any form of organizational change. What the CEO does is to ensure they have the complete story. They must understand that they need to make some sacrifices for the well-being of the organization and their ultimate welfare.

2. Enablement

What obtains in businesses is that the CEO is at the top of the hierarchy, with other executives and employees expecting directions. An organizational change starts with the CEO, but one person cannot do it alone.

The extent to which the CEO carries everybody along the journey determines success. You must encourage employees to succeed in their roles.

When a CEO feels threatened and refuses to empower employees who can then initiate ideas that can lead to solving problems without supervision, it can lead to retardation, and this will slow down the wheel of transformations. The CEO should essentially create a team that does not have to wait for instructions every time.

There must be a culture that encourages employees to come up with new approaches, new ways of doing things, and thinking out-of-the-box. Devoid of the constraints of bureaucracy and oversight, and with total conviction, you will be surprised to see employees perform well in any organizational change program.

3. Enhancing a high-performance team 

The CEO needs to be firm; an organizational change requires a high-performance team. Tough decisions must be taken, and the CEO can only do this when the top team is totally in support.

Without having their commitment, embarking on organizational change can be an effort in futility. Whatever is necessary must be done to earn their support.

Making them see the need and urgency of the change is a step in the right direction. If they know you are carrying them along, they will put in their best. A high-performance team hastens any organizational change program.

Who can make the journey and who has the interest of the organization at heart are the areas the CEO must look into before picking a high-performance team. The role of the CEO is unique; being at the top of the pyramid is not an easy thing, but having capable hands all the way makes things easier.

The belief and commitment of the CEO are vital to the cause, and other executives will only key in if they see a high level of commitment from the CEO.

4. Making the organizational change result-oriented 

Any organizational change requires a lot of input; the executives and employees put in extraordinary energy to ensure that the business is running while the changes are going on. The CEO must appreciate this, and it may be necessary to reward efforts.

Any form of accomplishment must be made known to the entire organization; it serves as a morale booster. It will to a great extent convince the employees that you are in the right direction.

The story must get out; it must be loud; employees will question the CEO’s motives, and it’s only when you tell the story of accomplishments that they will realize that you are moving them in the right direction. It assuages their fears; it gives them hope; it will greatly impact their cooperation and ultimate productivity.

5. Personalizing your approach

There are a lot of ways you can communicate progress and success to employees; you have options such as leveraging PowerPoint slides from the team. But, when employees see you in real life, that sores a point.

Tell them in your own words what is happening; allow them to ask questions and give them blunt answers. Personalizing your approach will bring to rest questions such as “What is the need for this organizational change?”; “How will we get there?”; and  “What has this change got to do with me as an individual?”


The CEO is not alone on the journey; organizational change requires everybody’s input. There must be collaboration; where new technologies must be adopted, effort must be made to ensure the employees access the necessary training.

The CEO must understand that it will be disruptive and prepare the minds of employees for such. Organizational cultures may radically change; legacy systems may need to be revamped; pockets of resistance have to be addressed promptly, and customer experience must be the center point.

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Efrat Vulfsons
Efrat Vulfsons is the Co-Founder of PR Soprano and a data-driven marketing enthusiast, parallel to her soprano opera singing career. Efrat holds a B.F.A from the Jerusalem Music Academy in Opera Performance. Efrat Vulfsons is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. Follow her on LinkedIn.