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.

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