Managing Change Management
Let’s be honest – change management is never easy. New initiatives are costly and time-consuming, with no guarantees of success. When things go wrong or an initiative fails, it can take a real toll on the morale of employees who have toiled to make the change, only to see their hard work squandered.
Three main stumbling blocks often derail change initiatives, according to an article
by DeAnn Aguirre in PwC’s strategy + business.
Aguirre, a PwC principal who specializes in leadership and organizational change management, says “change fatigue” becomes a problem when management rolls out an idea without adequate planning or preparation. The fatigue sets in when the team feels ongoing pressure to make multiple changes over time, with no end in sight.
The second problem involves companies that lack adequate talent or infrastructure to sustain the changes over time. Management may be unable to ramp up production to meet change targets, or internal processes can’t be integrated efficiently, or leadership’s commitment to the project may wane over time.
The third big problem stems from C-level managers who implement initiatives from above without consulting with front-line employees in the trenches. This top-down approach reduces the likelihood that important problems will be identified in advance, and it prevents team members from having full ownership of the project.
Here are some suggested tips to make your change initiatives more successful:
- Focus on the Group Culture. Change leaders must continually work to overcome cultural resistance and increase cultural support from team members. Make the most of the company’s existing culture by aligning the change effort with the way that most people think already.
- Secure Buy-In from the Top. To succeed, any change management initiative must have the support of engaged employees. But it must also have the vocal backing of top executives including the CEO. Otherwise, the project may lose momentum or have its funding pulled due to lukewarm support.
- Involve the Frontline Staff in Planning. Midlevel employees and frontline workers need to be part of the planning process, especially when the initiative directly affects their daily roles. These people can foresee problems that other may miss because the frontline staff are most familiar with the relevant processes, technologies and logistics.
- Promote the Business Case, But Appeal to Human Emotion. Every change initiative should be based on business goals such as driving new growth, penetrating adjacent markets, increasing operating efficiencies, or other beneficial outcomes. But to articulate the business goal, it’s also important to make an emotional appeal that inspires people to become part of something meaningful and larger than themselves.
- Measure for Success and Be Ready to Adapt. Transformation efforts should include specific metrics to gauge incremental progress and to measure ultimate success. Leaders are prone to proclaim victory for change initiatives before determining what actually worked and what steps could be improved. Without such follow-up, the organization may miss critical inputs to ensure the long-term success of the change process.
One thing is certain: Change is inevitable in business, as in life. That’s why business leaders must engage in internal change management efforts to stay competitive and keep their companies moving forward. Otherwise they will be acted upon by ruthless external market forces, which tend to result in changes for the worse.