Saturday, August 3, 2013

Changes within a change ...

We have all read and heard the statistic that 70% of all changes fail.  Many good reasons have been cited for this extraordinary level of failure:

1.    Lack of leadership support.  This is a primary issue in CM failure, for without strong leadership, few changes are likely to bear fruit.

2.    Lack of resources.  Clearly, without proper resources, funding, and an effective team, a change will fail.

3.    Resistance.  This issue is brought up again and again as a source of failure, and, thankfully, is receiving some academic attention, since resistance to change is not always a malicious attempt to derail an initiative.  Resistance is more complex that people who say "I don't want to do this." 

The Hidden Reasons:

1.    Managerial overload due to excessive projects:  Organizations abound with new initiatives, but rare is the corporation that effectively coordinates the requisite actions to manage the interface of multiple projects.

2.    STAR players burn out: The best people get picked for the hardest projects ... again, and again, and again.  Organizations require all team members to be involved, not just a few. 

3.    Changes within the change: Although common sense would seem to raise this issue, very often managers and executives fail to see the deeper complexity of changes within a change.  For example: a company decides to use a new software for their HR systems.  For most people, this will be perceived as an IT/System change.  BUT!  The cognitive changes required at the employee level (new thinking, learning, training), managerial level (new metrics, processes, reporting and workflow) and executive level (increased expectations for data access, improved performance metrics and rapid assessment of issues) are part of the changes within the change.  Simply think of how difficult it is to learn a simple, new software package without assistance, and you'll see what I mean.

4.    Tensions within the change:

Respect the past                                                                 Embrace the future

We used to do it this way                                                    We need to do it this new way

It was a lot easier back then                                               The new system requires learning

Centralization                                                                     Decentralization

Team needs                                                                       Organizational needs

Individual needs                                                                 Organizational expectations

Frontline employees                                                            Executive viewpoints

Each of these elements is present with every change - these are hidden tensions deep below the surface, and each one requires explanation, understanding, and resolution.  Sometimes people are able to resolves these issues on their own, but very likely they will require assistance in sorting out these tensions.

How do we resolve this? 

The power of the human brain cannot be underestimated when considering how it will force out unwanted and useless information in the quest for a goal.  So ... leaders who carefully articulate the Raison d'être for the change are miles ahead in their change management efforts.  "Knowing where we're going" is a big deal, since a clear direction removes other decision options. 

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