To meet the challenges of a global market, scarce skilled talent and the fast pace of technological change organisations have become far more sensitive to the role culture, buy-in and communication plays in change management. Unfortunately the success rate of major change initiatives is only just over 50%, according to a survey of global senior executives on culture and change (Katzenbach Centre survey 2013). The cost of ineffective change management efforts are not only financially but include confusion, wasted resources, diminished morale, increased cynicism and lost opportunities. Confusion and low morale can also lead to reduced Employee Engagement, burnout and the loss of talented staff.
When leading a change initiative there are 5 major hurdles to overcome:
When trying to raise the level of understanding in your organisation use multiple platforms or media to communicate the same message. For our message to be heard we need to communicate it at least 6-10 times before it is heard and understood. We cannot over-communicate when asking the organisation to change. Our messages needs to compete with dozens of other messages, media and day to day issues. Every successful executive who has led a change management effort, recommends repeated communication as a key factor to change, in retrospect. When change initiatives fail, the culprit is often a lack of good communication from management. However it is important to remember that communication isn’t just about what management says, it is also about what your employees say. Communication should be two way, not just top down.
Lack of buy-in.
Stake holder buy-in and participation is critical to ensuring changes made in your organisation are successful. When you invite employees and other stakeholders to actively participate in a change process it increases the chances that they will accept the changes. By requesting honest feedback you are demonstrating that you value their input and that you want to include everyone in the change process. Buy-in encourages the majority to embrace the change as they have a stake in the process. Unfortunately most change initiatives happen to employees, rather than being implemented with them. While management may try to push behaviour change from the top, without buy-in the organisation’s informal culture will often dig in its heels.
Cynicism and exhaustion are often the result when we feel pressured to make too many changes at once. Over 60% of respondents to the Katzenbach Centre survey reported change fatigue as an obstacle to successful change. Often these change initiatives were poorly thought through, rolled out too fast, or put in place without sufficient communication, buy-in and preparation. Fatigue is a common problem in organisational change management, particularly when flashy top down changes are driven from the top.
Lack of follow-through.
Change initiatives can also struggle due to a lack of the skills required to ensure the change is sustained over time. Though leaders may begin with zeal, eager to improve the organisation, when obstacles arise and schedules get filled with day-to-day urgent matters they can lose momentum and the change programme becomes another failed initiative. For change to be successful follow-through and follow-up are essential. A key to maintaining follow-through is creating small wins along the way. Fatigue is often a result of success being too far in the future. Set short term goals and celebrate the steps along the way.
A lack of purpose and urgency.
Establishing a sense of urgency helps leaders and managers of change to fight complacency. Complacency often originates with staff who are satisfied with how things are. Complacent employees often feel the change is unnecessary as “we’ve always done it this way” or ” the old way still works”. Urgency is the opposite of complacency. Urgency helps give stakeholders a sense of purpose and helps them see the need for the change to take place. In the Katzenbach survey almost 1/2 the respondents reported not understanding the changes they were expected to make, why they were necessary and over 1/3 said they didn’t agree with the changes.
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