It is generally estimated that between 60 and 70 percent of corporate change initiatives fail. Leading and managing change can be daunting in any organization, but it becomes even more so in large, multi-layered, multi-national ones. Regardless of your situation, here are a couple of reasons why change initiatives may fail.
People don’t necessary need or want to be sold, energized, or forced to conform. They want to feel part of the process and take with them something in return of satisfaction for the contribution – to feel worthwhile or valuable. This is especially true as one moves deeper away from top leadership where the perceived “us vs. them” mentality can quickly occur. Emotional issues on the front line must be addressed as early as the planning process.
Ø The needs to change are promulgated by logic rather than emotion. While the “oughts and shoulds” point toward the need for change, it won’t successfully happen until the “I feel” also agrees.
Ø Too much emphasis on groups and not enough on individuals. You must focus upon the smallest unit to assure the larger one is strong.
Ø Failure to understand or appreciate the microenvironment of “front line” and have good feedback mechanisms there.
Ø The relevance of the need to change is not sufficiently linked to the business and market dynamics.
Ø The roles and rules of governing the change are unclear.
Ø The organization is not adequately set up for change with no enterprise agenda nor common modalities for implementation between different functions or entities.
Ø There is too much focus upon the structure and not enough on the people in it.
Ø The energy to change is half-hearted.
Ø The change agent is not sufficiently mandated or supported by top management.
Ø There is insufficient preplanning to assess in advance the commitment of higher management, the complexity of the anticipated change, the resources available to implement it, what mindsets and attitudes must be changed in addition to policies or procedures, and the fit with the current corporate culture.
Ø There is not enough organizational bandwidth or capacity to accommodate the demands of the change.
Ø Leadership doesn’t adopt the essence of the changes themselves. Leadership adaptation to change is always monitored closely by subordinates. Executives must lead by “walking the walk.”
Ø The change process fails to address the emotion resistance or reaction and does not design the process to minimize them. There is not sufficient buy-in and inadequate monitors to measure that.
Ø Inability to articulate the tangible benefits or “whys.”
Ø The engagement and communications process is not collaborative enough. It does not engage its constituency in meaningful ways relying on one-way “tell” communications versus meaningful two-way dialogue.
An IBM survey in 2008 revealed that the top six things that make change successful are:
1. Top management sponsorship
2. Employee involvement
3. Honest and timely communication
4. Corporate culture that motivates and promotes change
5. Change agents (pioneers of change)
6. Efficient training programs
We all want to feel part of something meaningful. Beware the decision-making process in which the human element gets lost in the economic rhetoric. A business is like a garden. When the garden is not producing, a common first inclination is to weed the garden. Rather than do that, it is better to take the garden back to the way nature intended it. That means examining the grass roots system in a way that some would call “holistic.” When organizations start doing this, the system will be built on human spirit, and the change will more naturally follow.
Bob Fagan is a Performance Coach and Consultant who has successfully led transformational change for more than twenty-five years and consulted with companies and executives in a variety of industries since 2000. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
All Rights Reserved – Robert Fagan 2010