This past week my wife was explaining how her engagement ring matches that of a close friend who recently became engaged. I began to consider how, in marriage, engagement is considered the ultimate commitment. Unfortunately, statistics indicate that greater than 80% of engagements make it to a marriage; however, of these only 50% survive. So in essence, for those who pursue the sacrament of marriage, only 40% have a chance of their marriage lasting their lifetime.
Interestingly, these statistics align closely with the success of many change management engagements. Of those that are initiated, nearly half will fail. Discouraging results.
In researching and assisting organizations to overcome the obstacles of change, we have identified several circumstances that repeatedly lead failed change. Simply avoiding these three situations you will dramatically improve your change initiative success rate!
In no particular order they are:
1. Top down approach.
Changes that are driven from the top down, which do not have empowered sponsors in mid-level management, have a greater chance of failure. Top Management or business owners are often unable to connect the desired strategic outcome with the benefits of achieving the outcome tactically. If a change is to be successful, those who are executing the change tactically must understand “what’s in it for them.”
2. Accelerate before seat belts.
Changes that are thrust into high gear with little planning or preparation are more likely to fail. It is true there is value in initiating change rapidly, however without a solid plan there is little understanding of responsibilities, potential threats (and opportunities!) and priorities. A solid plan is the foundation to achieving desired outcomes.
3. Invisible outcomes.
If there is no clear picture in the minds of those engaged in a change as to what the final outcome should be (they should know it if they see it), then chances are the change will fail. Most interestingly in these circumstances, employees have often surpassed the desired outcomes as they pursue their interpretation of the desired outcomes.
Sometimes the best strategy to change management is not in implementing what has been previously successful, but in identifying and integrating plans to avoid what has not been successful. Incorporating the three areas above will provide this insight.
Think about your most successful change initiatives versus those that have been less than successful. I would bet that one or more of the elements above existed in your failed change initiatives. What steps can you put into place to save an existing initiative that may be heading towards failure? How can you improve on future change management initiatives in order to be successful? Answer these questions and you have covered your assignment for this week!