Change Programs Fail to Deliver — Why and What To Do

Change Programs Fail to Deliver — Why and What To Do
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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. Data from our change management simulation supports their research.

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 change management consulting experts 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. That can work in a time of clear crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic or when all stakeholders affected by change already buy into the business case for change and the proposed plan to make it happen. Unfortunately, when it comes to organizational change, both situations are the exception, not the norm.

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

Six Key Ingredients to Successful Change

  1. A Ruthlessly Clear and Simple Goal
    The goals and accountabilities 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 better 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 The Key Steps to Mobilize, Design and Transform Your Change Initiative

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