After waiting in line for an hour, you finally take your seat. The overhead bar lowers and presses firmly against your chest as the safety announcement blares over the loudspeaker. Anticipation hits a peak as the cars click their way to the top of the crest. The silence is deafening as you hit the top, and you begin to question your decision. In a matter of seconds, the following emotions race through your mind: fear, uncertainty, and depression.
Although many have experienced this roller coaster before, for others it is very new. Depending on your past experience, the situation will be very different.
Why is change so difficult and unpredictable? The truth is, it’s not. Thousands of hours have been spent researching the causes, effects, and attributes of change. There are white papers, communities, models, and other resources that outline the change process. The challenge is not the what, but the how.
Most organizations do not take change management seriously, treating it more as a “check-the-box” exercise to show that “i’s” are dotted and “t’s” are crossed. Very few organizations truly invest in their change management programs, which is why desired outcomes are so often not achieved. In fact, According to John Kotter (creator of the “8-Step Process for Leading Change“), only 30% of change management programs succeed; the two primary factors for failure are lack of sponsorship and resistance.
Let’s take a moment to unpack change management. As a program, the purpose of Change Management is to minimize the risk and interruption when an organization is moving from a current to a desired future state. According the dictionary, the term change means “something new” or “to make different,” and management means “to deal with” or “control.”
Ask yourself this question: When my organization is creating something new or making something different, do we control the process to ensure we achieve successful outcome? Based on the research by Kotter, it is fair to say that 70% of the time, you do not.
If you are currently managing or planning a change, I’d like to offer three tips that will help you succeed:
- Clearly define the change. You must have a clear understanding of the entire change and the implications across the organization. What are the upstream and downstream impacts on people, processes, and technology? What new behaviors, actions, decisions, and expectations need to be considered? People know only as much as you tell them. You can’t expect change to happen when no one knows that that change is.
- Manage the change like a program rather than a project. A program is designed to support future events and long-term outcomes: Total Rewards, Talent Management, etc. A project, on the other hand, has a defined end date and supports short-term outcomes: implementation, merit cycle, etc. Managing a program effectively requires an investment in budget, resources, capabilities, skills, time, etc. There are several viable change models that are available for you to leverage.
- Continuously reinforce the value of the change. Lastly, change management is never complete. Change management is like Star Wars—there is never an ending and there is always a sequel. Change is ongoing and fluid, and it requires constant feeding and reinforcement to continue. In some ways, it is like raising a child: You must have thorough communication, constant engagement, specific training, and lots of reinforcement.
For more on this topic, see Change Management Needs An Update To Bring Meaningful Change.