Why Change Management Fails (It’s Not What You Think)
A common misconception could be leading your change effort down the wrong path.
We often say people hate change, but this isn’t exactly true. People don’t hate change simply because it means doing something different. They hate change when it seems hard or threatening. Resistance to change boils down to fear.
But in the modern day enterprise, change is our constant companion. In order to keep up, organizations must adapt quickly in order to survive the constantly evolving business landscape.
This means gaining a deeper understanding of change — and why it fails — is integral.
Why change management is so important today
Implementing change is easier said than done — 70% of change efforts fail. But it’s of critical importance that enterprises are able to buck this trend and manage change successfully.
Why? Because failing to change means failing. In an era of continual digital progress, the ability to adapt and grow is a must.
When it comes to digital transformation, change managers must take a human-focused approach. Otherwise, it won’t be long before your new initiative falls flat.
Why change management fails: 3 people problems
The highest barriers to successful change are created by people.
Whether it’s lack of strong leadership, employee resistance, or poor communication, they’re all people problems. Broadly speaking, people are the reason why change management fails.
People problem #1: Lack of management support
The CEO title entails many responsibilities. One of those is Chief Explaining Officer. But too many CEOs and other executives fail to communicate and address employees needs during change.
No matter how closely you stick to your change management model, the change won’t stick without adequate leadership support.
CEOs and other senior leaders must create the vision, and make sure employees understand their role in achieving it.
But many business leaders mistakenly think change management is not their responsibility. By not taking an active role, executives send a message to employees that the change is not important.
As Brent Gleeson writes in Forbes, “Successful transformations must be led by ecosystems of leaders across the entire organization.”
Leaders must be resourceful, motivated, and prepared to adopt any and all kinds of digital change.
According to @idgenterprise, 88% of CIOs feel they are more involved in leading #DigitalTransformation initiatives compared to their business counterparts. Digital transformation will be key to business growth in 2019 and CIOs are taking notice. pic.twitter.com/HCie9lEHL8— Digital Radar (@Digital_Radar) February 27, 2019
People problem #2: Employee resistance to change
Every change manager knows, a huge reason why change management fails is resistance to change. They also know how to overcome it — theoretically. But few can put this into practice with consistent success.
Changing the attitude and actions of your employees requires a thorough understanding of how employees process information and make decisions. Unless you take the time and effort to understand how a proposed change will affect employees, you’ll likely face resistance.
An iron-fisted approach to directing change also breeds resistance. When employees feel they have no say in the matter, the loss of control and frustration leads to cynicism and dissent.
However, resistance can actually be a good thing because it forces you to anticipate where it will arise, and how to avoid it.
People problem #3: Change fatigue
Digital change is rife with frustration and stress. When employees are forced constantly to change their processes, protocols, systems, and ways of working, they not only get tired, they get cynical.
They start to think of change as a nuisance that won’t last long, a fad, or even a joke.
Prior failures stand in the way of keeping an open mind and contribute greatly to resistance. It’s difficult for staff to feel motivated when they believe the current change project will die just like the last one.
When digital change is cumbersome, fatigue can set in quickly.
Despite the rapidness of technological innovation, successful digital transformation can take considerable time — especially when adoption is slow. It’s important to recognize this challenge and provide tools to facilitate digital adoption.
True digital adoption happens when digital tools are being used competently, comfortably, and to their maximum capability.
When employees are using digital tools as intended, and experiencing the benefits of that technology, they’re happy and productive. So, accelerating time to competency becomes crucial in countering change fatigue.
Failing to account for these three challenges can threaten the viability of your overall change effort.
If you want to understand why change management fails, it’s important to take a people-focused approach. Communication, leadership support, adequate support, and creating a track record of positive change are all essential for making your transformations successful.