Change Programs Fail to Deliver – Why and What To Do

a chalkboard staircase between fail and success as an illustration of why change programs fail

Most Change Programs Fail
Bain & Company reported that most change programs fail.  Their research found only 12% of change initiatives they surveyed achieved what the change programs set out to do. And over one-third failed miserably.

What’s Going On?
Certainly any executive team planning major change needs to understand why change programs fail and consider carefully how to avoid the most common change pitfalls.

A Typical Scenario

  • The executive team asks staff and hired consultants to identify what needs to change in order to achieve their shift in strategy—whether it’s to cut costs, boost growth or adapt to new market challenges.
  • The change committee comes back with a 3-year strategic plan which is passed on to another committee charged with implementation that is passed on to the normal day-to-day business.

In effect, the senior team tells frontline managers and employees what to do. Great if all levels buy into the proposed plan for change. But that happens in less than half the change initiatives.

Here’s The Rub
The frontline needs to be involved in change from the beginning. Change that is imposed from the top down without alignment and buy-in with those who are affected by the change is doomed to produce lackluster results. To really achieve change program goals, organizations need everybody aboard…it needs to be an all-hands effort.

Six Key Ingredients to Successful Change

1. A Ruthlessly Clear and Simple Goal
The goal should make sense for the business and be easily understood by all employees.

2. A Sense of Universal Participation
Each employee should feel that they own a role in the change initiative’s success. They should feel empowered to make the daily decisions that support the change.

3. Recognition of the Importance of the Goal
There should be a sense of urgency throughout the work force that the change matters. Frequent and regular communication to all employees should emphasize the importance of reaching the goal and focus sustained energy toward it.

4. Clear Roles and Responsibilities
Line managers should know what part they play and they, in turn, need to be sure their teams understand what they are expected to do.

5. Straightforward Accountability
As the plan is implemented, there should be high levels of accountability – rewards for those who follow the new path and hit their targets and consequences for those who don’t.

6. Transparency
Keep track of progress toward the goal and use transparency to keep everyone in the loop. Benchmarks reached deserve celebration. Missed targets have implications that affect other functions and teams. Nothing should be hidden.If tweaks are needed to the plan, they should be made as a whole team effort.

The Bottom Line
When change is needed to catch up or to outperform your competition, make sure you do it right. Done wrong, you waste time, money, productivity and risk employee disengagement.

To avoid being one of the companies where your change programs fail, download Rhapsody in Change: How to Mobilize, Design and Transform Your Change Initiative

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