An epigram by Jean Alphonse, a French novelist, in his journal Les Guepes reads: “Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose”; which literally translates to “The more it changes, the more it is the same thing”.
These words aptly describe the business world today, which is dynamic and ever-changing. Organizational change is the process of where it is moving from its present state to a desired future state. The change therein may be anything like process, culture, technology, etc. In this fast-moving competitive era, change at an organizational level has become imperative, yet more than 70 percent change initiatives fail.
Here are some reasons why change initiatives fail in an organization.
Lack of leadership buy-in and change awareness
Most change programs fail because there is less support from the leadership team, or there is a misalignment between employees and the organization’s leaders. In IT organizations, particularly, most change initiatives require a significant change in the mindset and behavior in order to succeed.
The solution? According to experts, leadership alignment and support is paramount to achieve organizational change. They also suggest forming a team of senior executives directly reporting to the CEO who directs and brings in adoption to change as a culture within the organization. However, this behavioral shift should not be limited to leaders alone. During a change initiative, IT organizations tend to give priority to systems than employees. “Sustained change is always people driven” says Lee Colan in his article “10 Reasons Change Efforts Fail”. He writes, “Even implementing new software successfully is more about the people who will use it, install it, train it, and support it than it is about the system itself.” In most of the ERP implementations we do, technology comes last; what precedes is the assessment of user psyche for the need of change, change awareness and change adoption. Change projects fail when these are not done, and technology is given importance over people behavior. Below are the key pointers that leaders need to work on before they float the idea of change:
- Vision & mission
- Core values
- Organization structure
- Performance management
- Rewards & recognition
- Knowledge management
- Business processes
These are the areas that help leaders understand if change is required and if yes, how are they going to cascade the idea of a changing organization to the rest of the organization and build a future state successfully.
Most change programs fail because there is less support from the leadership team, or there is a misalignment between employees and the organization's leaders
Employee resistance to change is one of the most important factors affecting the success of an enterprise-wide change initiative. The natural human response to change of any kind is discomfort and resistance, and sometimes even the conventional empathetic approach of connection and persuasion is not sufficient to alleviate fears, because hardwired habits take long to change. However, we have seen in our practice that more than frameworks and models, it is the watercooler talks and coffee sessions that are the best way to communicate the purpose of change for employees to accept and internalize it.
So, what works? PROSCI, the global leader in change management; suggests the 3-phase change management process – Preparing, managing, and reinforcing change. These phases are scientifically researched and proven to meet the desired results. What works best is communicating early and communicating often. Using social media internally and other tools like newsletters also facilitates the speed of the communication. Hosting live sessions with the C-suite wherein employees can directly ask questions and get answers from the horse’s mouth also works very well. In addition to proper communication, what works very well is involving employees in the change process and encouraging them to generate ideas on how to transform the enterprise. Some actions to build employee change readiness include:
- Developing & cascading strong senior sponsorship for people focused work
- Keeping front line managers & supervisors informed. A transparent change helps to involve them at the initial project stage. Training enables and empowers them to face the changes and cascade it to the bottom of the pyramid
- Rewards and recognitions for desired behaviors and outcomes are essential. A well laid-out plan that includes both tangible & intangible rewards keeps the employees motivated and competitive. This helps in facilitating drive amongst the entire organization.
Poor change planning
Often, organizations dive right into the design phase without adequately planning the change they are trying to implement. It is imperative of the leadership to chart down a plan that identifies activities that need to be conducted at the early stage to make it successful.
- Setting up a governance structure – This streamlines the roles and smoothens the decision making
- Deciding a timeline – A schedule keeps everyone on the same page and helps develop the sense of urgency
- Engagement plan for stakeholders – who needs engagement, what is bothering, how are we going to address the issue, when are we going to do that – this is a well laid-out plan that helps create buy-in amongst the employees and is tailored to address the engagement issues of the impacted personas
- Communication – Identifying the time, channel, and developing the content for communications at various project stages are imperative. This make the stakeholders and employees aware about the developments and maintain transparency.
- Integration initiatives – This helps in maximizing the speed and efficacy of change adoption
Improper resource planning
Adoption and sustenance of a change is a long-term process. These are not results of a splendid solution design. The conceptualized solution needs to be developed, implemented, tested, refined and reinforced.
Resourcing: This is a methodical process and takes resources in a phased manner. If it is not planned at the earlier stages, meeting the resource requirement becomes difficult and getting them aligned to the very purpose of the change gets diluted. This results in failure of change. Hence, resource planning should be done at the primary project stage. Few pointers that need to be included in the resource planning are:
- Adequate resource supply at each change stage
- Staff turnover during transition
- Asset allocation per resource for smooth functioning of Business as Usual (BAU)
Leadership development is a part of virtually all organizations but change leadership development is greatly missing. Transformational leadership is a skill that leaders need to learn and build before starting the change itself
Inadequate change leadership skills
Leadership development is a part of virtually all organizations but change leadership development is greatly missing. Running an organization and running change initiatives are two different things. Transformational leadership is a skill that leaders need to learn and build before starting the change itself.
Change leadership enables to:
- Foresee interdependencies – cause & effect, deferred consequences
- Conceptualize the big picture – the future state
- Build people connect – transparent and continuous communication
- Navigate complexity better – creating alternatives