Success is a good teacher, but failure implementing change may teach you more
Managing the people side of organizational change is as important as managing the change itself.
Successful change management is needed to ensure adoption, greater proficiency and increased overall utilization.
ECM (Enterprise Change Management) efforts fail on occasion, for a number of reasons. Examples include not treating ECM as a project, failing to define the future state of the organization, or failing to use a multi-faceted approach. Any ECM should have clearly defined plans with objectives and a project team and leader. Understand that ECM is a comprehensive process and requires a holistic approach to reach all areas of the organization and successfully transition the organization into these changes.
Gartner Analysts give us a basic starting point: “To begin to change culture, pick a change leadership will work on and tell employees what that is. Take action. Expect a few stumbles along the way, but don’t let that discourage you. Then make sure to advertise the outcomes the changes produced and what yet needs to be done to get even better.”
In the business world, failure is often seen as a negative. Amy C. Edmondson, of Harvard Business School, suggests that the number of blameworthy acts within an organization is actually quite small. When asked to estimate how many events in their businesses are truly blameworthy, most executives estimate between 2-5%. However, when asked how many acts are treated as blameworthy, the answer ranges between 70-90%. Edmondson suggests that a culture that makes it safe to report failure can lead to higher standards for performance.
Learning from failure requires awareness on the organizational and the individual level.
It is a valuable experience, but requires shifts in knowledge and behavior at all levels of an organization. Most people oversimplify the process. An organization that does not learn from its failures opens itself up to predictable surprises. These occur when an organization ignores or fails to recognize clear evidence that a major problem could occur in their change efforts.
The importance of communication
When implementing a change initiative, the entire organization needs to buy in. A compelling case must be made as to why this is a beneficial course of action and how individual workers can support change. It is not uncommon for managers or leaders to underestimate the amount of conversation that is required with employees of the organization. Why is the change necessary? How will management and the leadership team support the change? Will employees be provided with the necessary skills, tools and education to implement this change? Failure creates recognition of risk and a motivation for change.
Gartner analysts add this thought: “We have to be ready to speak to authority when the opportunity presents itself.”
Intelligent failures are successful at helping an organization identify risks.
These are failures that are thoroughly planned, have uncertain outcomes, are modest in scale and take place in domains that facilitate effective learning. By planning the project appropriately and creating an environment that supports intelligent failures, leaders can effectively learn from their failures.
Aaron’s, a Fortune 500 furniture rental company, has this to add based on their own experiences: “In our experience, errors occur regularly and across the board… They seem to happen anytime something changes.”
Failure is a part of life, whether it be playing in sports, in school, or running a business. Failure shows an individual and an organization where mistakes were made and allows them to develop a strategy to prevent these mistakes from occurring in the future. By avoiding placing blame, encouraging employees to talk about failures, and accepting failures as a part of innovation, business leaders will create a positive change environment for their employees.
Chris is the Lead Author & Editor of Change Blog. Chris established the Change blog to create a source for news and discussion about some of the issues, challenges, news, and ideas relating to Change Management.