Ten Reasons Why Your Change Efforts Failed

We have previously discussed how change and change efforts are crucial for organizations to stay competitive and relevant in a rapidly evolving business world. However, according to the Harvard Business Review, 70% of change efforts fail.

Change can often be intimidating for everyone, but, as a manager or higher level employee, the pressure associated with change can be extremely daunting. For example, you experience your own stress and fears linked with the change along with the pressure of successful organizational change and backlash from your employees trying to adapt to change as well. You tried to do the best you could yet the change was not as successful as anticipated. Based on our research, we’ve compiled a list of ten reasons why your change efforts fell short of expectations:

1. You told people about the change efforts

Simply informing staff about change is not the same as implementing it. Many leaders of change expect a seamless transition as long as they give their employees notice regarding organizational changes.

In his best-selling book, Leading at a Higher Level, Ken Blanchard explains how this misconception is far from true. Telling people about a change is not actionable. It doesn’t involve employees, and it doesn’t create a path for people to follow. You can’t just tell people something is going to happen. You need to help and empower them through change.

2. You’ve failed to do your homework

While change is often necessary and strategic for the business, an organization can’t just decide to make a change overnight. It’s important to consider what resources are required to support the change. This could be technology, money, time, and talent. Too often we see change implemented while only considering a subset of the factors that need to be evaluated. Take the time to ensure that you have explored the effects of your change efforts from all perspectives.

3. You didn’t get people on board

Many change efforts fail because there is no strategic vision. If you tell someone they’ll be expected to change the way they’re currently doing something at work, they’ll likely feel overwhelmed and try to find every way possible to do things “the old way”. This can be a huge threat to productivity wasting unnecessary amounts of time and money.

Let employees know what changes are going to occur and why the organization has found the changes to be in the best interest of the company and its employees. Provide a roadmap for employees so they can understand the process and buy into the vision. It is easier to complete a successful change effort if the vision and direction is shared and clear from the top down and from the bottom of the organization up.

4. You didn’t provide proper leadership

It’s no secret that leadership is essential in every successful organization. Leaders carry more responsibilities and more decision making power. A leader is also responsible for leading their employees – especially through change. It’s important to be clear and consistent through the change process in order for employees to feel confident in their abilities to be successful through these change efforts. Leading by example is extremely effective when trying to help motivate people through change. Be sure you are encouraging and acting on the same change initiatives you are expecting your staff to embrace.

5. You weren’t there to address concerns

Because there are a lot of unknowns associated with change, employees are likely to have questions or concerns regarding the change process and what the future looks like for them. Transparency and open communication will go a long way with your employees. They’ll be less intimidated by the upcoming changes and will trust the management team and the process much more. This inevitably reduces pushback and ensures a more seamless change process.

6. You didn’t include the most important people

Often times the people who implement change are only slightly affected by the change. For example, when implementing a new data strategy, you may be affected by the way you’re getting information. However, the employees reporting to you may have to change the way they aggregate data, where they pull data from, and how they create their reports.

Instead of coming up with a plan about how you can help your employees through the change process, ask your employees to help you come up with a plan. By seeking help from those who will be directly affected by the change process you are going to have a better idea of how to combat potential issues.

7. You didn’t provide the proper tools

The higher up the org chart you go, the less you know about day-to-day operations. This a struggle many leaders deal with to understand what their direct reports are doing on a day to day basis. Because of this, it’s easy to overlook necessary tools to help employees manage change. Make sure you understand how the change will affect daily processes and be sure to provide proper training, programs, or technology that your staff will need to comply with the organization’s vision.

8. You weren’t cheering your people on

As mentioned earlier, many employees resist change because they are intimidated or don’t feel confident enough to tackle the challenges associated with change on their own. Be sure to walk your employees through change and encourage them to keep learning and master the new processes. This will motivate your people to adopt the new practices and keep trying to improve the organization.

9. You experienced death by 1,000 initiatives

This phenomenon was also discussed in Ken Blanchard’s book, Leading at a Higher Level. It’s important to keep the vision in mind and stay the path. Inevitably, challenges will arise and things may not go as planned. Don’t get bogged down by concentrating on every little detail. Instead, stay focused and prioritize accordingly.

10. You didn’t measure your progress

Change efforts takes time. It may feel as if the change management process is taking a long time with little progress to show for it. Be sure to measure progress along the way and share that with your team. This will keep people motivated and show that the combined efforts are making a difference in achieving your goals. Creating metrics for your change management efforts enables greater transparency for measuring success (or failure). By creating these metrics, it allows you to take corrective actions to ensure success is achieved.


Anything we missed? Anything you disagree with? Leave a comment and give us your thoughts!

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Posted in I-O Psychology, Leadership.

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  1. Pingback: Change Management: Change vs. Transition - The Knowlton Group

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