Have you been involved in any change initiatives at work lately? Or should I say, how many change initiatives have you been involved in at work? It seems like most organizations are constantly moving from one change to the next. Between rapid technology changes, much needed cultural changes and environmental changes that are impacting most industries, for all of us change is the one constant that we can be sure of. Therefore, it is compulsory that leaders know how to manage change.
What if you don’t?
Well, to be blunt, then you will become a statistic. Research indicates that 70% of organizational change initiatives fail. Why? Most leaders have never been taught to manage change. Change is difficult and very expensive. Learning how to manage change is critical leadership competency.
I had a chat with a client recently (let’s call her Julia) who does know how to manage change. Julia runs several large scale change initiatives annually and implements them extremely well.
So, I asked Julia what her secret is to successful change management. I’m going to share her top three strategies with you below.
Strategy one: Recognizing the need for a comprehensive, high-touch communication strategy. Too many change initiatives are communicated via email. A senior person will send out one email detailing the change and then expect everyone in the organization to make the necessary changes immediately. Unfortunately, that is NOT how it works. People need to hear something 6 or 7 times before they truly understand how they can implement the new way. Julia uses a very comprehensive high-touch approach. She communicates the change in many different ways over time. She even has a person on her team who flies across the country to help implement some of her team’s change initiatives. His job is to ensure that buy-in, training and concerns have all been handled.
Strategy two: Getting buy-in from her peers. Julia is part of her organization’s executive team. She reports to the CEO. Firstly, she ensures that the CEO is on-side with any change that her team will be facilitating. Then she presents the change initiative to her peers. If the other members of the executive team do not buy-in, she knows her change initiative will be a failure. She has learned how to articulate the WIIFM (What’s In It For Me) to her peers so they understand the positive impact of the change for their teams.
Strategy three: Having a full time person dedicated to managing change. I thought this was a very strategic idea. I have never before met a person in a Human Resources team who has the title of Change Manager. Julia does not want to be a statistic. She realizes that change is extremely challenging and therefore hired a full time person dedicated to overseeing her annual change projects.
You may be saying, Vanessa, I am not on the executive team so these strategies are not relevant to me. Not true. Regardless of your level in your organization, you can be an effective change agent. I am certain that you can find a way to take each strategy detailed above and leverage it to enhance whatever change initiative you have on your plate. Think about your communication strategy and plan 6-7 ways to tell people about your change initiative. Consider who you need to get buy-in from to make the change happen. Finally, ensure that you or someone one on your team has dedicated enough hours to really manage the change. If not, your change initiative might just become part of that dreaded 70%.