Change: Management Must Understand Why Changes Fail
Since change has been constant since the dawn of man, it might be reasonable to think that industrial management has the process institutionalized...but that simply is not the case, at least in many organizations.
The reality is that almost 70 percent of all changes fail! The sad part is that this failure rate, according to research conducted by McKinsey & Company, has been fairly consistent.
Rick Maurer, in his book “Beyond the Wall of Resistance: Why 70% of All Changes Still Fail – and What You Can Do About It,” listed four big mistakes that change leaders consistently make: assuming that understanding equals support and commitment; understanding the potential power of employee and management engagement; failure to appreciate the power of fear; and failure to acknowledge that even a slight lack of trust and confidence in leaders can kill a good idea.
The following is offered as an opinion as to why Maurer’s list might be valid.
10. Leaders don’t lead change effectively.
Leaders have been exposed to change management but that does not make them experts. It’s a safe bet that they’ve read more than a few topical books, attended training, listened to motivational speakers, and been subjected to consultants who tout their brand of change management. As a result, most leaders know what to do—but they generally don’t put that knowledge into practice.
9. Leaders underestimate change challenges.
Leaders often expect people to add a new project to their already full plate. When these leaders are asked, “What’s the top priority now?” they reply, “Everything.” It’s not unusual for some leaders to ask their people to spend as much as 20% of their time on project work and assigns them to also sit on teams while expecting them to complete their normal tasks! Is this a recipe for success?
8. Leaders believe a good idea will naturally succeed.
Many leaders believe employees will be so struck by the ‘concept’ that they will willingly support the effort. Project leaders seldom have a firm grip on the scope or difficulty of a project; therefore, projects are often woefully under-resourced and burdened with unrealistic deadlines.
7. Leaders can force people to change.
A senior manager who tried that approach told me, “All I got was malicious compliance.” People can be devilishly creative in the ways they can foil your plans. Leaders should not forget that change scares most people. Fear can be a big distraction that undermines a team’s ability to focus and stay productive. People need to understand the motivation for change and leaders must “win them over” to succeed.
6. Leaders prioritize “how”over “why.”
Even well-meaning leaders often rush to action. They do this because they are convinced that change must happen quickly, or they are excited by an opportunity. The people who need to make change a reality should know why it’s important to do anything differently. Without knowing why change is important, people simply won’t be interested in making it happen.
5. Leaders ignore complexity.
Once an idea takes hold, it is hard to see the overall context or consider the difficulty of the change. Leaders often miss signals telling them the time is just not right, that people are not in the position to embrace the effort, or the corporate culture won’t support the change process at this time.
4. Leaders underestimate resistance.
Either leaders ignore it, or they present mind-numbing presentations which are not convincing. People resist change for a lot of reasons. Maybe you recall the adage the only person who likes change is a baby with a wet diaper. When leaders understand that, they come closer to understanding what it takes to support change.
3. Leaders lack the skills.
They know what to do—they just cannot do it! They’ve never practiced. It is like trying to jump from a pick-up basketball game to the NBA but missing all the steps in between.
2. Leaders and organizations immune to change.
We can say all the right words—and believe what we say—but something stops us. Think about all the people who try to lose weight. They know what to do, they know how to do it, but they do not achieve results. The same is true for organizations. No amount of training, motivation, or practice will help unless leaders examine underlying false commitments that hinder change.
1. Leaders believe that items on this list really matter.
Leaders do what they’ve always done and tend to get the same results. Albert Einstein described this as the definition of insanity!
It is up to management to understand how to break down resistance to change. Remember “change is often desirable, frequently necessary, seldom embraced but always inevitable.”