Corporate change initiatives are rarely successful. One finding even suggests a staggering 70% fail! This incredibly high figure got us thinking, what exactly is going wrong?
The stakes are high for most companies, especially when considerable investments are pumped into change management. Other negative consequences include decreased productivity and reduced morale, especially when change management roles aren’t clearly defined.
There are some organizational situations where very little planning goes into change. In these scenarios, everything is left to chance. At least with some sort of structure, change can be introduced with some sort of method behind it, and a well-thought out strategy that generates positive outcomes.
There are two main causes for concern when initiating organizational change:
- A failure to focus on front-line business managers, instead prioritizing the view of the change agents responsible for devising the process.
- Insufficient guidance for managers to follow specific actions on route to desirable outcomes.
These two central mistakes can have drastic consequences on organizational change, where change management roles go askew. These are two overarching problems that underline the obstacles of change management, but it doesn’t stop there.
There are various other issues (some of which fall under the above the criteria) that contribute to failed change initiatives, which will be explored throughout this article.
By identifying these common mistakes, you can adjust your change management plan accordingly, remembering it should be a constantly evolving philosophy that can flexibly adapt to external variables.
Here are some of the leading reasons why organizational change fails more often than not:
All Talk and No Action
Organizations commonly announce plans for change, creating great promise and anticipation for new initiatives.
They might use events to speak new projects into existence, but how often do companies commit to new approaches? Often the energy fades, and new concepts for change fizzle out, despite the initial hysteria experienced.
Staff are often tied up with everyday duties, making time commitment a big issue. If you’re serious about change, make sure you can dedicate enough resources to meet your objectives, even if that means employing external staff to fulfill change management roles.
Starting Too Late
Industry pressures can force organizations to act out of desperation. Leaders take drastic steps rather than exploring different courses of action and taking their time. When change is implemented in a rushed fashion, there is less confidence organization wise.
Slapdash plans can be avoided by acting in advance, allowing yourself to get one step ahead of the game. Acting out of necessity will probably lead to undesired outcomes, and staff frustration will inevitably rear its ugly head.
Employees Are Last to Know
Staff should be involved in the process from early on. Ultimately, it’s their satisfaction that will drive change on an organizational level.
Sometimes information runs to the media before middle managers find out, which can lead to them feeling disconnected from the organization. They’ll also feel betrayed and unimportant.
If this isn’t enough of an incentive to let management in on your company vision, just imagine the valuable knowledge they can contribute to improve processes? Everyone should be united on the same page to reach common goals.
Over-Focus On Rational Elements
Too often, the people executing plans for change focus on the analytical side of things, making a case for what’s likely to happen.
This provides no scope for unintended consequences, which are inevitable when considering things rarely go according to plan.
Though your plan should be rational, it should also account for the irrational. If you plan for problems before they occur, you can mitigate associated risks. Knowing how to deal with something in advance provides resounding reassurance.
You should also make an emotional case for change, one which isn’t driven by analytics. People need to feel the problem, and understand the ramifications if the vision for change isn’t realized.
This will align their roles with company objectives, indicating the importance of a problem that really needs to be addressed.
Failing to Combat Resistance
Resistance is at the heart of failed change. When people reject change, it’s difficult to take proactive steps towards company goals. Be prepared for resistance, and establish how you’ll persuade staff’s behavioral attitudes.
Creating a clear dialogue is a great way to influence attitudes, where communication can be leveraged for maximum impact.
Lack Of Leadership
Leadership is hard to teach, but essential for survival. Storytelling is a great way to captivate staff, alongside using empathy to relate with your staff’s true feelings.
People need guidance, but if you’re more of a dictator than a leader they’ll naturally repel your ambitions. Synchronize with your staff, but offer the direction they need to embrace change.
Lack of Communication
Communication is everything. Target different segments of the workforce and ensure you communicate in a two-way fashion. Talking without listening demotivates staff, who will consequently feel undervalued.
Avoid a patronizing or condescending tone, and prove you value staff by showing you’re on their level.