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Managing Change Part 3

Walking the Talk on Change

In this third post on the topic of driving change I am reviewing another article from David Michels available on Bain & Company’s website. We know that leadership can be difficult and lonely but that is no excuse to step back.

It is well known that many change initiatives fail. Research by Bain found that 88% fall short of their original goal. How can you beat the odds and achieve your objectives? David Michels has identified three causes of failure and I will suggest some ways to avoid them.

Change is vague and intangible: Mr Michels states managing change does not lend itself to clean analytical problem solving. And it is complicated by human behavior. People do not like change and there will be some employees who try to undermine your change initiatives either actively or via inertia. It is worth taking the time to identify groups of employees who may feel threatened by the change initiative being implemented. Take the time to talk with them, either to allay their fears, or to reassure them that they will be treated fairly and with respect. Over my career I have seen many instances where employees have supported change, even if their own jobs were at risk, if they knew they would be treated well at the conclusion of the project. Retention packages should be considered.

Change is hard to measure: Which makes it hard to manage. There are ways to improve your organizations ability to handle change which we covered in Part 2 of this series.

Our own biases hold us back: It is human nature to assume that actions that have been successful in the past will work in the future. But as they say it investment circles, past performance is no guarantee of future performance. Be sure to take time to identify what is different today from yesterday and plan accordingly.

Time Discounting is another human trait that can derail change initiatives. The farther into the future a risk or reward is the less dangerous or beneficial we think it is. This is why some smokers find it hard to give up cigarettes. The balance of immediate gratification of their smoke versus the risk of dying some time in the future tips the scales to having their cigarette now. So if possible structure your change initiative to provide near term rewards for your employees.

Before you start any change project take the time to identify the risks. Especially in yourself. What is needed to ensure you will walk the walk and not falter along the way? Here you need to brutally honest with yourself. As the company’s leader the success or failure of any change project lies mainly with you. And as was found by Bain 88% of leaders fail to achieve all their goals. Make sure you are in the 12% that meet their objectives.

This is the end of this series on change management. If you would like to chat about your change initiatives please do not hesitate to contact me.


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