Why do most change management initiatives fail?
Many of us are involved in change management and yet we often do not learn from previous mistakes as to why change management often fails to deliver. Change happens but we often fail to deliver management expectations.
Over the past 15 years The RapidBI team have researched and investigated the reasons why many organizational change and improvement initiatives fail to deliver bottom line results. Indeed many change and improvement initiatives don’t just fail to add to the bottom line, they often suck valuable resources from the organization and reduce the overall effectiveness. And then the change also fails to live up to expectations.
Our research which has been based on the experience of not only the RapidBI team but dozens of organizational consultants and frequently referred to in university and business school research (inc DUBS & OUBS) can be summarized as:
- Not linked to organizational objectives
- No overall strategy for organization development
- Organizational culture not taken into account
- Purchasers not clear about what they are buying
- Suppliers finding solutions to problems they can solve
- Lack of metrics and evaluation
- Time and financial pressures on the organization
- Change process not managed effectively within the organization
Not rocket science – but the basics. Basics which for some strange reason keep being missed again and again. Indeed many of the texts on organizational development encourage the diagnosis of a ‘problem’ in isolation from many of the factors listed above. For significant success all factors must be present and effective.
What does this mean?
Not linked to organization objectives
Activities which are not directly attributable to delivering the current or future objectives of the organization
No overall strategy for organization development
Business development, both sales and strategic development have no overall strategy driving them. Examples can include sales focusing on a high margin product where the organization wants to change focus.
Organizational culture not taken into account
When change activities are implemented change teams often select a ‘fad’ or current model to apply to the organization, blindly believing that it is the right thing to do. Examples may include changing the culture of the organization without understanding how the existing culture supports the current success of the organization
Purchasers not clear about what they are buying
Buying consultancy or organization change products can be a bit of a mine field. Providers spend a lot of money making their marketing messages look slick and promising to solve problems easily. Many providers are packaging process change like a product, as purchasers appear to be increasingly comfortable buying a product. In the noughties – the purchasing of products is something we as individuals think we understand, and when many people find themselves in the position of purchasing – use consumer purchasing strategies. As purchasers we need to fully understand the proposition and its impact on our existing culture and ability.
Suppliers finding solutions to problems they can solve
Suppliers have a business – they want to sell what they can offer, if they can find a way of positioning their offer to our preferred need they will. It is up to you as the purchaser to ensure compliance metrics or milestones are in place to ensure you are getting what you think you are buying.
Lack of metrics and evaluation
It is easy to talk about evaluation, but in practice much harder to do. When needs of the organization are appropriately identified in the first place, often the measures for success and evaluation criteria are obvious. The justification of any future organizational development activity is easier when as developers we have evidence that what we did last time added value.
Time and financial pressures on the organization
As the saying goes – when you are up to your back side in alligators, you easily forget that you job is to clear the swamp. In organizational change is like this too – more often than not, those involved in change management also have a ‘real day job’ too. But change IS A REAL DAY JOB, and as businesses we need to show that we are serious about success, and that means allocating resources – time and money to the changes and organizational initiatives we desire and indeed require for our businesses.
Change process not managed effectively
Deciding that change is required is one thing, actually doing it is quite another. Effective change management requires a number of key facts in place, these include, but are not exclusive:
- A written goals with success measures
- An agreed plan of action for the organization
- An agreed plan of organizational resources
- Availability of organizational resources in a timely fashion
- An understanding of the psychology of change on the individuals impacted
- An understanding of the psychology of those not impacted
- An understanding of the psychology of the teams and groups impacted
- A plan to manage the needs of individuals impacted and not impacted by the change
- Regular communication – approximately 500% more than you think you need
- A celebration on completion of key stages
- A review of what went well/ did not go well – for all parties and stakeholders – from THEIR perspectives
- Application of learning identified in the next stage
- Communication that lesion have been learnt and specifically what is being done differently
Now this is not a magic formula – as each organization and each change will have different issues and requirement. But is this is done then success is highly likely and you can avoid the key reasons why change management often fails to deliver.
Page reviewed April 2015