Getting change wrong is a sadly common occurrence in organisational management. To make matters worse, the speed of which the working world is changing means that there are more opportunities than ever before to trip up on leading change. Here are five common stumbling blocks of corporate change and what leaders and organisations can do to avoid them.
1. When change isn’t justified
You know how kids often ask, “But why?” when you ask them to do something? Well, like it or not, adults are very similar. Every corporate change management intervention needs to be set up with a pretext. This is sometimes referred to as “What’s in it for me?” or WIIFM.
WIIFM sells the change to your people through leaders explaining to them what the change is for, why it is important, how the team might be impacted, and the intended results. Often, this is not enough, especially when it comes to harder-to-digest change such as restructuring or other dirty words. Therefore, WIIFM requires tact, deft storytelling skills and an inspiring call to action to round it off.
2. When change isn’t sustained
Change rarely has a set start and end – after all, where would be the fun in that! Leaders must ensure change interventions are designed and implemented to afford support to employees as they navigate what is happening around them. Failing to do this will disengage employees or maybe even set the change process in reverse.
There are many ways to sustain change. Perhaps the easiest for leaders to action are regular check-in chats, short surveys or town halls to gauge how employees are feeling. Additionally – and this might not be the most exciting task in the world – designing policies, training, and standards to ensure the change is lived and breathed is essential to sustaining it. Finally, look at ways to incorporate the change into long-term goals, or even the organisational purpose or narrative.
3. When change isn’t measured
Change without measurement often goes unacknowledged, unappreciated, and ultimately, becomes unknown and unsustainable. Measuring change tells your people that it’s really happening, and hopefully, really working!
Leaders must look for metrics and analytics that help employees ‘see’ the change process. Measurements showing progress must be recognised and rewarded. Measurements showing the opposite shouldn’t be ignored. Instead, leaders can present these as opportunities, setting goals to get the change process back on track.
4. When change isn’t communicated
Corporate change left uncommunicated risks being perceived as change for some, not all. Alternative communication can win over, but in the form of gossip, rumours or falsehoods that distract from critical messages.
Sure, change can be communicated through WIIFM, sustainment interventions, and measurements, but leaders can never be too visual, either. Posters, murals, and visual goalsetting techniques such as Gantt Charts all visualise change programmes. To coin an old saying: “A picture tells a thousand words”. More creative or ambitious leaders might wish to look at infographics and videos to help communicate corporate change. Whatever the organisation does to communicate, having it reinforced on internal social media channels maximises its reach and impact.
5. When change isn’t for the better
Be careful of change for the sake of change. Often, change is pushed through because of a need to use up surplus budget, or because a new leader wants to do a little ‘shaking up’. Whereas some good ideas and new, improved ways of working can arise from such corporate change, the risk remains that established optimal processes are removed, or happy and content teams are irreparably altered.
Mitigate these risks by taking time to understand when something is fine left as it is. Survey your team and listen to customers to focus on what is needed and what isn’t.
Remember, if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it!
Change needn’t be the minefield it is often made out to be. Sure, change management is easy to mismanage, but with some careful planning and a sprinkling of communication, it’s equally easy to get right.
Put your people at the heart of the change. This whole article could be summed up by encouraging leaders to use empathy to think about what their people might be feeling. Work this into your planning, and these stumbling blocks will be a thing of the past.