Change management is no “Quick Fix”
There is no short cut to gain change nor is there any quick fix as you can get impression of sometimes. As
Organizations often dedicate a lot of money and resources to change management, yet research shows the efforts often aren’t successful. Understanding why it happens and how to improve can lead to better outcomes.
No organization these days can afford to ignore the fact that change has become a permanent part of the business landscape. Those who are not prepared to transform quickly may find themselves left behind.
In a complex world, speedy solutions rarely work. Unintended consequences, time lags, and interconnected systems whirled with risk and ramifications sidetrack easy solutions. There are no quick fixes and that leadership mindset needs to change.
In a rush to action, symptoms divert attention from root causes. Are today’s problems, issues, or opportunities simple? Leaders should not be being playing the equivalent of speed tic-tac-toe where getting to any win first is the goal.
Acting is critical but it must be the right action at the right time in the right way for the right results. As one of the Senior Executive Vice President said to me when I was leading the corporate turnaround of Lindorff Accounting Group. Be sure to make the right actions instead of making everything correct.
A quick overview, a readymade response or reverting to “what we have always done” cannot substitute for careful analysis, critical thinking, creative solutions, and integrated planning.
Why Decisions Fail, research shows that 80% of decisions are made without considering an alternative. While it is understandable that past success is alluring, the financial advisors caution that past success is not a guarantee of future success also holds true in other fields. The leaders do not need speed as much as they need accuracy and sustainability.
This means that the leader’s role as the person with “all” the answers must change. Instead of thinking that leadership equates to the fount of all knowledge, a leader’s real role is to ask penetrating questions. It is discovery, innovative and systems thinking, not the “tried and true,” that deliver lasting results.
It’s only a few situations in life have only two options. And many have learned to present one reasonable proposal paired with one that is unworkable. The apparent easy choice leads into the uncharted school of hard knocks territory.
Instead, allocate time to examining assumptions, identifying multiple options, and considering both the possible and improbable before making the decision. Speed is not the answer on the highway or in organizations. Remember it was the tortoise and not the hare that won the race. Take the time and involve the right resource to get it right the first time.
The Management guru Peter Drucker once said that half of the leaders he met did not need to learn what to do – they needed to learn what to stop doing. So, here’s a look at what leaders and organizations are doing wrong when it comes to change management – and how to fix it.
- Asking for too much. Among the biggest obstacles to successful change cited by respondents in the survey is “change fatigue.” In others words, workers are asked to take on too many changes at one time. This can occur when a change is rolled out with little planning, or rushed along to meet a deadline or pressures from senior leaders. Managers also can cause problems when they eagerly embrace the idea of change – but quickly abandon it when things don’t go smoothly. They begin to blame others, which quickly leads to disillusionment and fatigue among the teams.
The fix: Culture is critical. The survey finds that even though 84% agree it’s critically important, less than half believe their companies do a good job of managing culture. This underscores the need for a more holistic approach to change. Companies need to find a way to implement change that fits with the existing culture so that it doesn’t overwhelm workers and seem forced or contrived. Before asking workers for too much too soon, leaders need to think carefully about how they drive and sustain change if they want change initiatives to succeed.
- Managers lack the right skills. Change efforts often can’t go the distance because those in charge of leading them lack the necessary abilities to reach the finish line. There is often doubt and confusion among employees when faced with new initiatives, and they look to leaders for direction. Management uncertainty can undermine change and slow its momentum. In the survey, 48% of respondents say their companies don’t have the necessary capabilities to ensure that change is sustained.
The fix: Managers only need to look at the best practices of organizational change management to see the most successful leaders draw an emotional connection between the change initiative and the existing company culture. They don’t try and change the way employees think or behave, but instead emphasize how what employees are already doing is connected to the change being promoted. Leaders should continue to spotlight the strengths of a culture and a team and use it keep employees energized as they move toward change.
- Top leaders lack enthusiasm. Often a lot of effort is put into engaging employees in the change process, but senior leaders don’t get the same consideration. As a result, there isn’t strong support for change in the C-suites, or little agreement on how to go about it. When senior leaders are sending out mixed messages, it can quickly unravel a change initiative.
The fix: Senior leaders need to work together to develop a change management strategy that everyone agrees on, including the specific language that will be used, how the plan will be rolled out and how they will continue to communicate with one another during the process. They must consistently model the new behaviors from the very beginning so that employees clearly see that change is a reality.
- Influencers are ignored. No change initiative will thrive without buy-in from key rank-and-file employees. Leaders can talk themselves blue in the face and spend thousands of dollars on consultants and new technology, but change is going to fail without the complete support of workers such as a long-time receptionist or a well-respected project manager. Ignoring these key employees can cause resentment among workers and erode trust. In the Strategy& survey, 44% of employees report they didn’t understand the change they were being asked to make, and 38% say they didn’t agree with it.
The fix: Bringing the employees together in peer groups to discuss change initiatives can create accountability, mutual generosity, a judgment-free attitude and increased pressure on reluctant employees to change.” Peer role models have been shown to successfully lead projects within a change initiative.
- There aren’t enough rewards. Those who mentor or train others during the change process may lose enthusiasm if they aren’t compensated for their efforts. Just offering a “good job” may not be enough for workers who may be putting in overtime to help drive the necessary changes.
The fix: Consider policy changes that will reward those who coach or train other workers during the change initiative. These workers should not be considered volunteers, but rather employees who should be awarded bonuses for their extra efforts.