Change fatigue can be one of the biggest obstacles in organizational change projects, especially in the modern business, where change has become a constant.
In a worst case scenario, change fatigue can even transform into resistance, if not cause a project to fail completely.
A successful strategy for tackling change fatigue, on the other hand, can:
- Boost project outcomes
- Raise employee productivity and engagement
- Lower the chances of project failure
- Improve the employee experience and the work environment
Below, we’ll learn what change fatigue is, what causes it, and how to overcome it.
Why Change Efforts Fail
Not all organizational transformation initiatives succeed and there are a number of reasons for this, change fatigue being one of them.
Other reasons that change programs fail include:
- Poor design
- Ineffective communication
- Employee resistance
- Poor management
One important point to note is that, like all business initiatives, all components of a change program are interconnected – which means that any of these causes can also be linked to change fatigue.
For instance, a poorly designed change effort can cause change fatigue, which can then cause resistance and, ultimately, project failure.
For that reason, it is important to dig as deeply as possible into data, employee feedback, and metrics in order to better understand the project’s health and performance. This, as we will see below, is the first step towards creating a plan to reducing change fatigue.
How to Root Out and Overcome Change Fatigue
Here are several steps to take to better understand the root causes of change fatigue and develop strategies to minimizing that fatigue.
Analyze data and feedback in order to pinpoint the causes of fatigue
Change fatigue, as we saw above, can be caused by a number of factors – poor project design, ineffective communication, and bad management can all contribute to or exacerbate change fatigue.
Or, in many cases, change fatigue can be caused by perpetual, long-term change initiatives. After all, continual change requires continual adaptation and learning, which can take its toll on employees.
In short, change fatigue will often be the result of more than just one root cause.
To identify those causes and develop a multi-pronged solution, it is necessary to take a data-driven approach.
- Continually collecting data, surveying employees, and listening to their feedback
- Learning from that information and gaining a picture of how the change project is impacting people
- Identifying the biggest issues that are causing change fatigue
- Design strategies that specifically address the areas uncovered in the analyses
Taking a data-driven approach to change is one of the most fundamental ways to analyze performance and address fatigue. One-size-fits-all approaches, after all, typically don’t work since the causes of change fatigue can vary from case to case.
That being said, since continual change is one of the most common sources of fatigue, it is also a good idea to build agility into the business.
Take an agile approach to change management
One of the first ways to incorporate agility into the organization is through agile change management.
Agility is a business principle and approach built upon concepts such as responsiveness, real-time data, and user-interaction.
Though agile began in software development, it quickly spread to other business disciplines, including change management. An agile approach to change management can dramatically streamline and improve organizational change programs.
Here are a few principles and best practices to adhere to:
- Value responsiveness over static, predetermined plans
- Implement user-centered design to maximize relevance and minimize friction
- Don’t just manage projects, lead them
- Incorporate collaboration into business processes
Not only should business processes be built around agility, agile thinking should also be incorporated into the culture itself.
Upgrade the company culture
Organizational culture plays a large role in how a business operates and, ultimately, on an organization’s performance.
It should come as no surprise, therefore, that culture also affects the health and performance of organizational change initiatives.
Every corporate culture is unique and should be treated differently – there is no such thing as a “perfect” cultural model that should applied to every business.
However, certain traits are valuable, such as:
- Agility and adaptability
- Self-reliance and self-initiative
- Openness to change
In today’s economy, change is continual, which means that traits such as these are not only valuable, they are essential for survival.
Ensure employees are well-trained
Employee training directly affects their ability to perform their day-to-day job duties. Training, as a result, has become a normal part of most business operations.
When it comes to organizational change, however, training is even more crucial.
Employees who lack skills, after all, cannot drive change projects forward.
Having the right employee skills, on the other hand, can:
- Reduce errors, friction, and frustration, which can, in turn, reduce fatigue
- Ensure that employees can meet performance expectations, both during and after a change project
- Boost employee engagement and productivity
Skills, in short, are one of the keys to maintaining momentum during organizational changes. This becomes especially important for longer term change programs – or, as mentioned, for organizations that undergo continual change.