The Hard Side of Change Management: 5 Big Challenges (And 5 Fixes)

The Hard Side of Change Management: 5 Big Challenges (And 5 Fixes)
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The hard side of change management can be overwhelming at times.

According to many sources, 70% of change initiatives fail.

With those numbers, it may be tempting to throw your hands up and just walk away.

However, change management is rewarding, fruitful, and exciting.

Change managers can make a real difference in their organizations and in the lives of their fellow coworkers.

Let’s look at the hard side of change management so you can maximize your chances of success.

We’ll start by reviewing 5 of the biggest challenges you’re likely to face.

Then, we’ll look at 5 fixes to help you overcome them.

The Hard Side of Change Management: 5 Challenges

If you’re leading or managing change, you’ll run into a number of obstacles during your quest for change.

Here are 5 of the most common:

1. Employee Resistance

Fear of change is a big barrier to change. It’s usually the most-cited obstacle to change, and for good reason.

Employees don’t know what’s around the corner. So, in their minds, they have good reason to be afraid.

Organizational changes could mean many things, such as:

  • Reduced income
  • Lower value for their job
  • A different work environment
  • New teams
  • Learning new technology or job skills

Or, it could simply be a fear of the unknown.

This fear manifests as resistance to change.

Below, we’ll look at ways to reduce this resistance and even turn the tide in your favor.

2. Half-Hearted Executive Buy-In (Or No Buy-In)

Buy-in at the top is critical to a program’s success.

Without support, your program won’t have legs to stand on.

When it comes time to meet with stakeholders, business leaders, and those holding the purse strings, it’s absolutely imperative to have supporters at the top.

Lackluster executive buy-in can cause lackluster results … or worse.

And an unfortunate side effect?

Change managers may take the blame.

3. Imbalanced Skill Set in the Change Team

Change teams must be well-rounded in order to be successful.

For instance, a change team may consist of visionaries with drive, but who lack problem-solving skills or people skills.

A team without the right skills to drive change is like a car without a wheel – it’s going nowhere fast.

4. Change Battle Fatigue

“Battle fatigue” is what happens when soldiers become weary of the fight. When battles drag on for too long, motivation plummets, as does effort.

Employees suffer the same problem with change programs.

When programs go on too long, they don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, become fatigued, and lose motivation.

5. Under-Communicating

Under-communication can also drain motivation.

If employees don’t understand the reason for the change initiative – and if they don’t see any personal benefits to it – they’ll likely wonder what the point is.

As a result, effort will fizzle and change initiatives can stagnate.

5 Fixes to Make Your Life a Little Bit Easier

Now that we’ve seen some of the most common barriers to organizational change, let’s look at some antidotes.

Below are a few best practices that will increase your chances of success, boost results, and speed up the change process.

1. Review Frequently

Frequent reviews are useful for a few reasons:

  • Change leaders, managers, and teams can evaluate progress and make adjustments
  • Reviews serve as a method of communication – employees are regularly reminded that the change initiative is real, and not just superficial
  • Communicating results to stakeholders can increase awareness and recognition of the change initiative

In cases where change programs extend over a long period of time, reviews have been shown to have a positive impact on fatigue and the program’s results.

2. Create Well-Balanced Teams

Change managers and change leaders possess different skills.

Managers are great at administrating, directing, and managing change. Leaders excel at driving the change and communicating the vision.

However, the change team should possess a well-rounded skill set. If it doesn’t, then expect the change efforts to be hampered.

Also, note that everyone on the change team will impact the results of the initiative.

This means you should look at the team as a unit.

Make sure that the team, as a whole, includes skills that will push the initiative forward and manage it successfully.

3. Get More Commitment from the Top

Right from the start, you should focus on obtaining buy-in at the top.

As mentioned earlier, support from business leaders is crucial. Without that support, rationalizing the change program can be difficult.

This is especially true if the change program needs support later on during the life cycle of the program.

4. Slash Resistance by Planning for It

Employee resistance can severely stunt your efforts.

Always remember that they are the ones enabling and enacting the change. The results of the program depend directly on their support, so enlist them as early as possible.

Plan for resistance as early as possible by creating solutions based on communication and total participation.

The more involved employees are, the less they will feel alienated, isolated, and besieged.

5. Fuel Motivation by Rewarding Successes Early

One way to lower resistance is by rewarding successes early and often.

In other words, show them the fruits of their labor – and reward accordingly. They will become more motivated, supportive, and will put in more effort.

This tactic can be especially useful if your change program may go on for a while.

Conclusion: Expect Obstacles and Plan for Them

Remember Benjamin Franklin’s saying: “By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail.”

This holds true in many areas of life, including change management.

Outline the obstacles you expect to face, plan for them, and create countermeasures early on. By doing so, you’ll increase your positive results, reduce risks, and reap the rewards of your success.

Christopher Smith
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.
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