With the quantity and quality of academic brainpower focused on codifying how to manage change, you’d think an average transformation would have a decent chance of success. Startlingly, the majority of change initiatives still fail either fully or partially; and this hasn’t really changed since John Kotter raise the point in his book ‘Leading Change.’
Managing change isn’t straightforward and selecting the right change model is certainly not a guarantee of success. Although, research tells us that transformation objectives are 80-90% more likely to be achieved in an initiative that utilizes good to excellent change management; and only 16% likely with poor change management.
Unfortunately, many project leaders still encounter serious obstacles which derail their efforts, notwithstanding following apparently robust models. And what constitutes ‘good to excellent change management’ can sometimes be hard to define and understand!
Through our experiences, we’ve picked up practical tips that will help you avoid the transformation trap and navigate successfully through change. Here we’ve picked some of our favourites to share with you…
- Accept change isn’t linear, it’s complex
Beware of methodologies that present enabling change as one activity following another. This is not the case. Change is all about people and they are unpredictable and complex. At any point during a transformation it may be necessary to revisit activities from earlier in your process, or to re-order activities based on the lay of the land. Being prepared for this, and building regular, feedback cycles will make a difference.
- Identify and communicate a clear purpose
Most organizational change entails stepping into the unknown, which can be daunting. Doing so requires trust and significant effort on the part of those affected. The presence of an authentic reason for why change is happening is often the difference between a successful, inclusive process and resistance.
- Keep the customer at the centre
A vital point when developing your change purpose is to make sure your customers and strategy are the driving force behind the transformation – both in the ongoing communications and engagement that supports your activities.
- Create a visible change leadership unit
Change is shaped at the top. Individuals look to their leaders for confirmation and ownership when there is a shift in direction, so it is important to engage leadership at each level. If leaders do not seem ton board with change then the organization will slip back into old patterns of behaviour. Working on the bonding of the senior team and creating a sense of oneness will give strength and momentum for the journey.
- Harness the value of co-creation
A classic barrier to change is the “not invented here” reaction. The process of co-creation—enabling individuals to shape the outcome—is key when building commitment and better solutions. It’s the strongest predictor of acceptance and satisfaction in change.
- Realise culture can devour any plan
You can have the best strategy in the world but without the culture to implement it you’re sunk! All companies or systems have enabling and disabling patterns, which are often repeated at all levels. Identifying these patterns and designing interventions to shift culture is central to the work. These interventions can re-enforce a sense of identity and set the right tone for the new.
- A behavioural focus brings clarity from ambiguity.
The concepts of ‘change’ and ‘culture’ can seem amorphous. Focusing on specific behaviours and routines makes it tangible. Try identifying the desired and undesired behaviours around the organization’s core values and developing interventions to help employees demonstrate more of the desired.
- Make it personal and creative
Design engagement from the employee’s perspective. Draw a line of sight from the ‘bigger picture’ to each employee so they understand how they personally contribute and why they are important. Then amplify using creative and visual approaches, which are proven to increase retention of information (plus they are fun!).
- Build a movement by looking after your advocates
Using the power of social influence is well-documented and true, so creating an inspiring and different change network is an important tool for leaders and change managers. Looking after the experience for the members of the network specifically; rather than only focusing on their expected activities will help you get the best results from the invested time and effort.
- Get analytical to support those who need it most
Predictive modeling and tracking of business benefits will allow you to adjust your course. Some employees who perform today may not transition through change effectively. By identifying ‘at risk’ employee groups, and supporting them through change, you can reduce the risk of a ‘performance cliff’ which could damage the business.