4 Avoidable Ways to Sabotage Organizational Change

A man planning change stands surrounded by giant bombs about to explode

We see the same mistakes over and over again as our clients try to implement complex organizational change initiatives. We get it…organizational change is difficult…but many more such initiatives would succeed if they only avoided the four most common fatal blunders.

But first, let’s agree that any organizational change program has essentially the same objective: to improve performance in the near- and long-term and to create an environment flexible enough to adapt as unexpected disruptions occur.

This means changing employee behavior and, for anyone who has ever tried to adopt a new habit, it is not easy. The goal must be deemed worth the effort and there has to be enough incentive to sustain motivation until the new habit is ingrained and becomes the new norm.

Watch out for these four bombs that could sabotage your plan…

  1. Underestimating the need for extended leadership buy-in
    Leaders set the example. If they are not fully behind the proposed change for the long-haul, others will sense their lack of commitment. Involve key leaders early so they feel ownership and can lend their expertise as you craft the plan for change. Then keep them informed of progress so they continue to feel ownership and engagement. And don’t just include senior leaders. Employees often listen more carefully to their direct managers who have greater influence over their job success than to high-flown speeches from C-level executives. Involve formal and informal leaders at various levels…they are critical to transforming the goals of the project to actual behaviors on the floor.
  2. Insufficient monitoring of targets and overall progress
    Simply setting goals for various departments and then walking away will not produce the results you seek, especially when the organizational change initiative is complex. Departments will tend to work only toward their own priorities. You need someone in charge who can see what is needed in the future, facilitate collaboration between functions, make adjustments when appropriate, and encourage creative solutions that benefit the whole, not the part. The initiative should be managed across the entire organization that is impacted, not just the separate silos.
  3. Handicapping your change leader
    Your change leader needs the power, resources and backing to get the job done. If you fail to empower them sufficiently, they will lose credibility and effectiveness. They must have influence over the factors needed for success…the employees and critical leaders, the information flow, and the budget.
  4. Disregarding the individual needs of employees
    Employee behavior won’t change unless employees are motivated not simply for the sake of the organization at large but for their own personal benefit. You need more than an overarching and compelling rationale; you need to persuade employees that there is something worthwhile in it for them. If you don’t convince the implementers that, in the end, the change will be good for them, you will undermine the entire initiative.

As you become convinced that change is necessary for business success, don’t squander your chance to accomplish your goal. Avoid the “deadly four” and do it right.

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