Here I go again…butting in things that are none of my business, instead of concentrating on things I’m supposed to be doing. Problem is I think too much, especially about things I care about. Mushy disclaimer done, let’s move on to the reason for this post.
Organisational change needs 3 things to succeed:
- Precision and
However, most Change management exercises fail precisely because the Change Agents fail to get one of the above right. Either the effort is a half-hearted one (Lack of Intent), or it is done with too narrow or too wide a focus (Lack of Precision), or it seems to go on forever (Lack of Speed), leading to demotivation & loss of energy.
Lack of Intent: Usually occurs because the Change Agents do not have a clear vision (sorry to use that term) of where they want to go. This might be partly due to the ever-changing nature of the environment around them, or lack of direction from Senior Management, but usually it is because the reasons for undertaking the Change program are not clearly articulated. Quite often the programs are undertaken because of ego-clashes, fad-hunting or because the Change Agent is just plain bored or frustrated with the status quo. Articulating the reasons for the change program, and the benefits that are sought to be achieved, is the first step towards getting it right. Spending more time & thought at the pre-planning stage would make the execution usually better.
Lack of Precision: Usually occurs because in their haste to change, Agents attack the problem piecemeal, rather than taking a holistic view. Or they may desire to change everything of the past (remember the Re-engineering fad?). While tools like OD, Scenario Planning et al might help, probably the best approach would be to run a pilot program in a smaller part of the organization as an experiment to learn from, gain political currency, and leverage. Do keep in mind though, that at times, this might not be possible, or indeed desirable. This would be particularly true in cases of downsizing, strategic purchase/sale of business, or while entering a new market/geography/product line or repositioning an existing product line. In such cases, probably the best approach is to move with large steps at a rapid pace. Which brings us to…
Lack of Speed: This is where (my uneducated & totally biased guess) 90% of change management programs fail. Most programs proceed at too slow a pace, meandering & floundering on the way, not because of lack of intent or precision, but because the time taken to implement the program is so long as to render the original premise & plan meaningless. This is usually because even when people are convinced of the “intellectual need” for a change program, they have not bought into it “emotionally”. This is because such programs frequently challenge our pre-conceived notions of how things ought to be done, or force us to step out of our comfort zones. Surprisingly, it is as true of the Change Agents themselves, as of the other people effected by or involved with the program. Acknowledging the emotional impact of the Change Programs goes a long way towards ensuring speed.
Have you seen any Change Programs suffer? If so, do you agree with the above, or can you think of other reasons why Change Programs flounder?