Why so many Organizational Change Initiatives Fail & the Secret to Helping them Succeed

Why so many Organizational Change Initiatives Fail & the Secret to Helping them Succeed

Did you know that approximately 70% of organizational change initiatives fail? Why is that?

According to my own work on five continents and a cursory review of the literature, the main reason organizational change initiatives fail is because they do not adequately address the people side of change.

What do I mean by the people side of change?

People are at the heart of our organizations. They include everyone from the CEO, Senior Management Team, Middle Managers, Team Leaders and Employees. They also include key stakeholders.

How do you address the people side of change?

CEO and Senior Management Team –The key ingredient here is for CEOs and their Senior Management teams to be clear on why they are initiating a change – be it a culture change, reorganization, leadership change, new strategic plan … AND communicate that “why” clearly down through all layers of an organization. That said it is not enough to communicate the change, it is important for others in the organization to take ownership of the change (more about that later).

Another important aspect is that a CEO and their Senior Management Team understand change and how they typically respond to it. Some key questions to think about are: On a scale from 1 to 10, how do you typically respond to change? One being “It scares me to death” and 10 being “I thrive on it”. My experience has been that most leaders rate themselves from 8 to 10. They tend to thrive on change. However, there may be others on their teams who are 4s or 5s. If so, it is important to be aware of that, open up the conversation, and discuss how those folks may be supported throughout the change process.

When a CEO is open about change, acknowledges that many of us fear change, provides opportunities for their people to learn how to embrace change versus resist it and models this behavior for others, it improves the chances of success of an organizational change initiative.

How do you embrace versus resist change?

Based on more than 25 years of consulting and coaching with individuals and organizations on 5 continents, I’ve designed a 5-step process called “The Art of Change Framework” to support leaders and their organizations to embrace change. It is underpinned by the belief that “embracing change is a creative process that opens us up to new possibilities”. It is also supported by evidence from neuroscience, eastern psychology and organizational development.

This process is best implemented on the “front end” of an organizational change initiative and lays the foundation for that initiative. It works best in an experiential workshop(s) format where leaders and their teams have the opportunity to learn about change together, explore how they respond to change and why, and receive tools to support them as they move into a change process.

The Value Add?  When people learn about change and how they respond to it, that not only supports their engagement, motivation, productivity and positivity in the workplace, it also improves their personal lives.

I’ve included an excerpt from “The Art of Change Framework: A Guide to Personal and Organizational Change” below to illustrate the differential impacts between embracing versus resisting change (full document available at https://pamela-thompson.com/).

What happens in Ourselves, Our Relationships and Our Workplaces when We Resist Change versus Embrace it?

OURSELVES

Resist Embrace
We view change as a threat We view change as an
opportunity to learn and grow and as a creative process that opens us up to new
opportunities
We feel:
Angry
Depleted
Low in energy
Victimized
The increased stress over time
negatively impacts our health; can
lead to chronic illness and
negatively affect our career paths
We feel:
Open
Excited
Energized
Nonjudgmental

Over time we are more relaxed,
more flexible and open to creative
ideas. Our health may be positively impacted as we feel supported by
those around us and that we are
contributing to something greater than ourselves; may positively
impact our career paths
In our interactions with others we:
Are not totally present
Are judgmental
May be argumentative
In our interactions with others we:
Are present
Are mindful

Seek to understand and support
others

OUR RELATIONSHIPS

Resist Embrace
Strained
Reactive
Judgmental

Characterized by
increased conflict
We feel alone,
victimized and that others don’t
understand us
Open
Responsive
Curious

Characterized by increased understanding, creativity and compassion
We feel part of something and
supported

OUR WORKPLACES

Increased conflict
“us” versus “them”
mentality
Reduced morale
Reduced engagement
Little innovation
Increased illness and absenteeism
Negative impact on the bottom line

Increased cooperation,
collaboration and synergy
Increased morale
Increased engagement
Creativity and Innovation
Reduced absenteeism
Positive impact on the bottom line

As leaders of teams, organizations or community groups, it is essential that you understand change and how you respond to it and also understand your team members and how they typically respond to change. By engaging in facilitated experiential workshops on the Art of Change, the understanding among team members will increase and resistance toward a change process, be it a reorganization, new leadership, new project or new strategic plan, will decrease.

Providing Opportunities for people from various layers of the organization to input into the change process such as answering the question: How will the change affect me? And How can we as a team best support and positively contribute to the change initiative? AND the leadership taking those responses into consideration, is important. This includes input from key stakeholders which may be obtained through telephone interviews, focus groups, facilitated workshops … . Providing opportunities for people to input into the change process not only may provide interesting suggestions and perspectives, it will also build ownership for the change. People by nature, want to be respected, valued and feel like they belong; and enabling them to input into a change process supports these basic needs.

My experience has been that when we provide the opportunity for people at various levels to input into a change process, they often contribute ideas and suggestions that senior management is not aware of/cannot see from their organizational vantage point.

In a recent episode of “The Art of Change” radio talk show, my guest, Shelley Gilberg, partner in PricewaterhouseCoopers, and experienced organizational change expert, noted that one reason many change initiatives fail is because “we cut off support too early to sustain change initiatives” – For more details check out: https://www.spreaker.com/user/bbm_global_network/the-art-of-change-show-9. Providing people at various layers of the organization the opportunity to receive training and support and instituting “check points” along the way for people to identify how they feel and why is important. This is also supported by Brene Brown’s interviews with a large sample of leaders from both public and private sector organizations.

In Summary

There is strong evidence that the reason why many organizational change initiatives fail is because they do not adequately address the people side of change. When we provide opportunities for people from various layers of an organization, as well as key stakeholders to input into a change process, when the CEO and Senior Management Team are clear on why they are initiating a new change and communicate that effectively throughout an organization and model positive change behaviors, and when leaders and their teams from various levels in an organization are provided the opportunity in experiential workshops to learn about change and explore how they respond to it, the chances of success of an organizational change initiative increases.

Learning and implementing the 5-step Art of Change Framework helps you as a leader understand how you respond to change and is a tool to support you and your team(s) to embrace it. In these challenging and uncertain times, now more than ever, we need proven processes to support individuals and leaders in communities, governments and organizations to create successful change initiatives and through those efforts make a positive difference in the world.

Be Careful What You ask for …

Be Careful What You ask for …

While vacationing in Mexico a few months ago, I was lazing by the pool and decided to do some journaling. I asked myself the question: What do I really want in my life? Here are some of the answers that came to me:

  • I want a new project
  • I want to have fun
  • I enjoy interviewing
  • I want to make a positive difference in the world
  • I would like someone else to promote me.

Within several weeks of returning home, I received a phone call from someone from an advertising and promotional company out of New York specializing in internet radio broadcasting. They have a global audience that surpasses 50 million listeners. The representative said that his analytics department had found me on the web and they felt that there was a niche that I could fill based on my background and experience. We set up a time for him to give me the details. He said that the niche included women entrepreneurs, leaders, women in business, high achieving women, and those aspiring to be leaders and entrepreneurs.

I was then offered the opportunity to host my own weekly internet radio talk show.  It was to be my show, my own intellectual property that would stream live on Bold Brave Media’s global network and Tunein Radio to start and would be archived on http://boldbravemedia.com/about-us/.

I was excited about the possibilities so I signed a contract and embarked on a new adventure as an internet radio talk show host! It’s been fun the last couple of months learning about radio and being trained by the Head of Production, an amazing guy with 40 years of experience in the business. My home office now is a studio with a huge microphone on a moveable arm, and some BIG headphones!

I’m excited to share that “The Art of Change” radio show launches June 5, 2019 and will be live weekly on Wednesdays from 3 to 4 pm Pacific/6 to 7 pm Eastern. The first show will lay the foundation for future shows and will focus on change, the impacts of resisting versus embracing it, and will walk you through a practical process and strategies to embrace change. In future shows, I will be interviewing inspiring women leaders and changemakers from around the globe and asking them questions about key changes they’ve made in their lives, key challenges faced and their lessons learned. You will have the opportunity to phone in to a 1-800# and ask questions.

The intention for the show is to create an informative, safe and supportive space for women to tune in to weekly and phone in (if they feel comfortable doing so) and get their questions answered about change, leadership, entrepreneurship, creating a social movement … .

I extend an invitation for you to listen to my first show on June 5th starting at 3 pm Pacific/6 pm Eastern and weekly thereafter at the same time. To access the show you can either download the Tuneinradio app on your phone (visit http://ww1.tuneinradio.com/ ) and listen there going to bbmglobalnetwork and then to the name of the show “The Art of Change”. You may also go directly to http://boldbravemedia.com/ at the scheduled time and click on the show on channel 100. If you’re unable to listen live, you may listen later or download the show from the boldbravemedia site under my name.

I’m excited to have you join me on this new adventure and welcome your thoughts and suggestions of topics to cover, questions you’d like answered and potential inspiring women leaders and changemakers to interview. Please share your comments and suggestions below or email me.

It’s Pamela Thompson signing off from “The Art of Change” radio show broadcasting live from bbmglobal network and Tunein radio!

Documentary Film & Community Conversations: Powerful Tools for Promoting & Supporting Change

Documentary Film & Community Conversations: Powerful Tools for Promoting & Supporting Change

Change is loss; change is the gaining of something new.”

Last night I attended the screening of a documentary film “Metamorphosis” by Canadian film makers Nova Ami and Velcrow Ripper[1]. It was an informative, energizing and beautiful experience. The topic was Climate Change. Many films on this theme are all “gloom and doom”. In contrast, this film reminded me of the resilience and beauty of nature and of the importance of slowing down. It gave me hope and inspiration that we do have a “window of time” to make a real difference in the health of our planet.

We had an opportunity to meet and hear briefly from the film makers about their purpose in making the film before it was shown.

The Documentary: Real Life Experiences

Through the use of dramatic cinematography a number of real life examples of the impacts of climate change were shared through the eyes of people who are/were directly affected. This included:

  • The drought in Southern California characterized by swaths of cracked and desolate land, which due to the diversion of natural aquifers for the irrigation of large cities such as Los Angeles, has changed green, thriving and water abundant areas, to desert. Data was shared including the fact that a typical lawn in Southern California requires 4 feet of water per year to stay healthy and alive and rainfall typically is 13 inches per year. The rest is made up for by irrigation.
  • More frequent and powerful typhoons in the Philippines and Caribbean resulting in loss of life, the high loss of homes (needing to be rebuilt) and the uprooting of ancient trees.
  • Higher water levels and more frequent flooding in Venice
  • Devastating fires due to draught. The experience of driving through a burning forest to reach loved ones. One family’s experience of losing their home and how their entire town was decimated.

The Documentary: Innovative Solutions

A number of innovative solutions were shared that are currently being implemented in various parts of the world. They included:

  • Garden Pools – and the “army” of folks trained to convert drained swimming pools into gardens and ecosystems which are similar to what exists in nature; symbiotic relationships where one organism is dependent on another; e.g. ducks, fish (fertilizer), water from rain and dew, facilitating the growing of a variety of fruits and vegetables.[2]
  • Grid “Collective” – installing solar panels on roofs of homes in low income communities and training others to do this
  • Sculptured Human Art – facilitating the growth of new coral reefs
  • Garbage Art – to increase awareness of how much garbage we create as humans and using it to construct colorful and fun art pieces
  • Earthships – using used tires, cans, bottles, solar panels as well as rain water capture to create self-sustaining homes that are “off the grid” [3]

Community Conversation: Who was there and Why was it helpful?

After the screening, the film makers were joined at the front of the room by an academic, and a local municipal councillor who is advocating for “green” solutions, as well as a facilitator. The “floor” was open for us all to share how the film impacted us, to ask questions and share impressions.

It was interesting to hear the different perspectives of the panelists and the audience. A safe environment was created that enabled people to share what they liked about the film, what they might have liked more of, and how it impacted them. There was also a discussion of change and loss and how it is important to grieve the losses associated with climate change, as well as other environmental and life changes.

As the documentary touched on the importance of us as members of communities sharing our gifts and talents to create innovative solutions, a couple of special things happened that surprised me. One woman asked for permission and sang a beautiful song about Mother Earth. Another openly shared her painful, yet valuable learning experience of moving through grief related to what we as humans have done to the planet, and how the experience affected her mind and body; and the realization that this is part of the process of change. 

Lessons about change that I took away from the film

  • The importance of slowing down and being grateful for the beautiful world we have.
  • Reminded me that many of us are stuck in “psychic numbness”; on a constant treadmill of making money, so we can pay our bills, buy bigger and bigger homes and cars and consume more and more “stuff”. Being on this “hamster wheel” prevents us from reflecting on our beliefs and behaviors, experiencing and moving through the fear, anxiety and uncertainty of change, letting go of beliefs and behaviors that are no longer serving us and moving toward creative solutions.
  • The strength and resilience of the monarch butterfly; how going through different phases from caterpillar, to chrysalis, to beautiful butterfly and the 3000 or so miles each one flies each year, is remarkable. The butterfly reminds us that change is normal and can lead to increased strength, resilience and beauty.
  • The human imagination and how creative we can be to come up with solutions when we put our hearts and minds together toward a common purpose.
  • The importance of acknowledging that we all have gifts and talents to share; uncovering and sharing those gifts to make a positive difference.
  • The need to forgive ourselves and others for the harm we have done to our planet.
  • The value of holding community conversations around topics and engaging people from diverse backgrounds, cultures and experiences to generate innovative solutions to “pressing” challenges.
  • The power of the collective and community to support change.

 Parting Thoughts

Reflecting on last night’s experience and what I learned from the documentary, I began thinking about the importance of grieving all changes. I started thinking about how we might integrate video and film effectively into organizational change processes and to support social movements and societal changes we need in order to create a healthier world for us all. What are your thoughts?

I’d love to hear from you. Have you used film and video to support change processes you’ve been a part of? If so, where and how and what did you learn? I invite you to share your comments below.


[1] View trailer here: https://vimeo.com/248189180

  • [2] Symbiotic relationships are a special type of interaction between species. Sometimes beneficial, sometimes harmful, these relationships are essential to many organisms and ecosystems, and they provide a balance that can only be achieved by working together.” (Source: https://study.com/academy/lesson/symbiotic-relationship-definition-examples-quiz.html)

[3] Wikipedia description: “An Earthship is a brand of passive solar earth shelter that is made of both natural and upcycled materials such as earth-packed tires, pioneered by architect Michael Reynolds.

An Earthship addresses six principles or human needs:[1]

  1. Thermo-solar heating and cooling
  2. solar and wind electricity
  3. self-contained sewage treatment
  4. building with natural and recycled materials
  5. water harvesting and long term storage
  6. some internal food production capability.”
Change & The Changemaker: How Can You Support Others to Embrace Change?

Change & The Changemaker: How Can You Support Others to Embrace Change?

As a heart-centered leader and/or changemaker, it is important to support others within your team and/or organization to embrace change. This may be easier said than done. Here are a few “tried and true” strategies.

  • Openly discuss upcoming changes; (e.g. new leadership, reorganization) and ask people to share how they are feeling about the changes
  • Communicate about the changes and openly discuss how they may impact you and your team
  • Ask how people would like to be supported during the change process. I so relate to Brene Brown’s work, the examples she shares in “Dare to Lead”, and the importance of scheduling “rumbling sessions” during times of uncertainty and change. For example;

“These changes are coming hard and fast, and I know there is a lot of anxiety … I want to spend the next forty-five minutes rumbling about how we’re all managing the changes” (p. 35).

  • Encourage those team members who are uncomfortable with change to start slowly and integrate small changes into their daily routines (e.g. drive to work a different way, when dressing if they usually put their right leg into their pants first, start with their left leg, try sleeping on the other side of the bed … . Change is like a muscle; the more you welcome change into your life, the easier it becomes. Ariane de Bonvoisin in “The First 30 Days – Your Guide to Making Any Change Easier” identifies six “change demons” and their antidotes. The six change demons are: fear, doubt, blame, guilt, shame and impatience. She explains that the change demons “help us navigate through change by alerting us if we are off course and encouraging us to choose a different emotion to help us get where we want to go.” (To learn more visit: https://pamela-thompson.com/can-reduce-fear-change-power-beliefs/)
  • View embracing change as a creative process that opens us up to new possibilities (a foundational belief of my “Art of Change Framework”- https://pamela-thompson.com/2017/10/), and speak with your team about the value of internalizing this belief.
  • Use the change process as an opportunity to be creative and innovative and create space and opportunities for team members to share innovative ideas. William and Susan Bridges in their book “Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change” share some excellent examples of this.

I’d love to hear from you what strategies you’ve found effective to support others in your groups, teams and organizations to embrace change. I welcome your comments and ideas below.

Change & The Changemaker: The Importance of Understanding Change

Change & The Changemaker: The Importance of Understanding Change

I so relate to this definition from Ashoka (https://www.ashoka.org/) that “a changemaker is someone who is taking creative action to solve a social problem.” They go on to say:

Not every changemaker needs to launch their own start-up or be the president of an organization; changemakers can find opportunities to make a difference in any number of roles. They may have no ties to an organization; they may take action as an individual or as part of a group; they may organize as a part of broader community or they may work within a formal organization. “[1]

Are you a changemaker? If so, it is critically important that you understand change and how you respond to it. Here are a couple of questions I encourage you to think about and write down your responses to:

  1. When you think about change what words or emotions come up for you?
  2. Rate yourself on a scale from one to ten related to how you typically respond to change; “one” being “scares me to death” and “ten” being “I thrive on it’.

Many of us who declare ourselves as changemakers, including those of us who are leaders of teams and organizations, respond to question #1 positively. For example, when I think of change, words such as: “excitement”, “adventure”, “opportunity”, “creativity” come up. Based on my experience with other changemakers and leaders they respond similarly. In terms of question #2 many changemakers and leaders typically rate themselves as a “nine” or a “ten”. That said, when they ask the same questions to members of their teams or groups, responses to question #1 may be “fear”, “uncertainty”, “anger”, “overwhelm”. And for #2 their responses may be closer to “five” or “six” on the rating scale.

It is important to acknowledge that how you respond to change when YOU initiate it is quite different than when it is imposed on you. If change is imposed on you, your reactions and how you rate yourself on the scale from “one” to “ten” typically change toward the negative.

So how do you as a changemaker and/or leader, effectively navigate change and support others around you to embrace, rather than resist change? Learning some facts about change and openly exploring how you and your team respond to change is a good starting point.

Some Facts about Change

  1. Our bodies are hard-wired to react to change, to protect us and keep us safe

Our amygdala (part of the brain) is constantly scanning our environment for potential threats including things that are different. When it notices something it perceives to be a threat, it sends messages to our bodies that put us into fight, flight or freeze.  When we are angry, feel like running away, or our minds freeze, we are NOT in a good position to make any decisions, or to positively influence others.

2. Our past experiences with change affect how we respond to it. For example, if when you were a child a relative you were close to died and no one let you see the person at the wake and didn’t discuss the person’s death with you, as an adult you may fear death and not feel comfortable speaking about it. Similarly, if when you were a child and when changes happened, you typically learned to “get on with things” and to not express your feelings about leaving a particular school, relationship, home … , then this will likely affect how you respond to endings as an adult.

3. We store beliefs and emotions in our bodies. Dr. Bruce Lipton, a stem cell biologist by training, in his book The Biology of Belief, documents research conducted by himself and others that all the cells in our bodies are affected by our thoughts. Dr. Candace Pert, an internationally renowned researcher and biochemist in her landmark book Molecules of Emotion, shares evidence of the biochemical links between the mind and body. That being the case, if we have had negative past experiences with change, that will negatively impact how we respond to change in our personal and our professional lives moving forward.

4. The good news is that we can change the physiological structure of our brains (create new neural pathways) with our thoughts. [2] The implications of this body of work to us as leaders and changemakers, is that we can learn, model and teach others how to embrace rather than resist change.

Why am I so passionate about this?

If we don’t learn to embrace change we:

  • keep repeating the same patterns in our lives and remain unhappy & unfulfilled
  • Feel constantly under stress leading to chronic health issues and negative impacts on our relationships & our businesses
  • Expend a lot of energy resisting change

The bottom line is if we don’t learn to embrace change, over time it negatively impacts both our personal and our professional lives.

How can we reduce our fear of change?

We can:

  • Better understand how and why we respond to change
  • Learn a proven model and tools to help us reduce resistance, and embrace and successfully navigate any change

The more you understand change and the more self-aware you are about how and why you respond to it, the more easily you can embrace and move through it.

What has been your experience with change? How have you effectively dealt with change in the past? I welcome your comments below. Feel free to share this with people who you think might find it of interest.


[1]

https://www.evansville.edu/changemaker/downloads/more-than-simply-doing-good-defining-changemaker.pdf

[2] Doidge, Norman, The Brain that Changes Itself. London: Penguin Books, 2007