Why do change management and business transformation initiatives fail more than 2/3s of the time?
People. It’s all about the people, and we’re doing it wrong.
How, you ask?
Leadership doesn’t tell people what’s going on, doesn’t ask people what they need or how they feel. They don’t create an environment where people can succeed amidst rapid change.
What happens as a result?
People are unaware of the case for change and the possible impacts and resist change. They feel neglected and afraid, lose trust, get frustrated. People leave.
How can we fix it? How can we manage our people better to increase successful business transformation and change management initiatives?
It always comes down to the leaders, the questions they ask, and their attitudes and approaches.
As Industry Week says:
“When people begin to trust senior management, when they are meaningfully included in the direction of the business, when they participate in the rewards that accompany superior achievement, then you will have an organization where the people know why they are giving 120%. Why do people change? They change because they are given a clear reason to.”
How can we do this?
Leading well, especially through challenging circumstances such as business transformation or company-wide change is easier said than done.
Here are 3 principles to move towards success:
Create a Communication Roadmap for Change
Communicate a Strong Company Objective
As McKinsey&Company states: “if leaders are unable to translate these beliefs into a coherent basis for conversation and learning with their leadership group, then the chances of developing an effective, tangible, and manageable program of change are much reduced.”
Effectively Communicate The Case for Change – Why Does it Have to Happen?
Get the right strategic vision. Scope the changes and determine whether a less risky repositioning will do, or if a full-scale business transformation is required (Forbes). Make sure this change is essential, and then go into it wholeheartedly.
Share the Consequences of Failed Change: What happens if change doesn’t happen?
If the strategic ground thinking has been done, people will know why this change is essential. They will see what’s in it for them, and what’s in it for the company. And, on the flip side, they also see the consequences, and what they and the organization will lose if it fails. When people know both the risks and the rewards, they are more empowered to move forward.
Anticipate Questions / Issues
Whenever there’s a large challenge or risk, people are going to have questions. Anticipate what their concerns will be, and be ready to welcome their questions and concerns with open arms. American Management Association shares:
“When you can’t answer every question, it is best to tell people that you understand their concern but don’t know the answer. Or, say that you don’t have the information yet, but will get back to them as soon as decisions are made.”
Listen and Respond to Employee Voice
As American Management Association states: “To be a consummate manager of change, it is not enough to engage people’s logic; you also have to appeal to their emotions.” This is why it’s so important to communicate with your employees. Gauge their sentiment. Ask them how they feel, and keep asking. Ensure they understand what’s happening and why. Find out what they need to feel secure, and then make sure they have no reason to be afraid or confused.
Explore and Address their Fears
Are they afraid of losing their jobs? Do they fear that company culture will shatter under the weight of the change? Are they simply resistant to give up the good thing they have going on right now? Cushion them, as much as you can. Make them feel comfortable and confident. And then together, move forward.
Keep Consistency and Measure Progress
Continue to Respond Throughout the Change
Consider appointing a leader and/or committee to support change communication. Inc. Even suggests a useful list of vocabulary dedicated to the transformation, including: Project Management Office (PMO), Project Team, Strategic Leadership Team (SLT), Team Leader, and Work Teams. These teams and designated positions are instrumental in keeping communication clear and consistent throughout the change.
While it’s essential to listen to employee voice before a transformation, this remains a priority all the way through. Keep checking in to understand how your employees are feeling as things progress. And then show them the progressions. Be transparent about what’s going on, the challenges, the successes, the setbacks. This is a team effort, and you’re all in this together. Keep your employees on your side.
At the end of the day, it all comes down to the people. What you need is people who listen. People who ask. People who care. People who are willing to work and work hard. This is not a simple issue. It’s complex, and it takes a deep understanding from leaders in order to transfer a deep understanding to employees.
S+B Blogs shares a relevant quote from Albert Einstein:
“‘If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask, for once I knew the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes.’ Einstein knew he had to understand an issue deeply before addressing it in order for his solution to have the most meaningful impact. You need to overcome the core, often hidden problem in your work — not just the visible stumbling block.”
Business Transformation and Change Management have many layers, with core problems that are often hidden beneath visible stumbling blocks. But the right questions, asked by the right leaders, with the right attitude, will get you there.
Change is a challenge, but you can succeed. One person at a time.