Experts in change management are in no doubt: change in organisations is difficult to trigger and achieve, despite all the efforts we make in planning, financial forecasting and human resources management to facilitate the process.
For example, John Kotter reveals that only 30% of the change management case studies from his research have been successful. Turner & Crawford state that 88% of managers think that changes are correctly planned and their companies are able to carry them out, but only 33% of them achieve partial or complete success. And Onirik notes that more than 60% of problems are related to people’s reactions to change. And even more recently, a survey by McKinsey confirmed that 70% of organisational change projects do not deliver all of the expected results.
It seems that making a change is often a battle against the many reasons not to change. So that’s the bad news, but we have also have good news: once you understand the dynamics underlying change, you can kick off the right actions to increase your success in managing the transition.
So what things might help us deal with change fatigue? Is there some kind of handbook for managers who are trying to deliver results through change?
These questions were discussed by a group of sixteen managers who attended my last workshop “Leading Your Team Through Change”. This programme was developed to help them understand and better manage some common types of change at work, by sharing personal experiences and selecting the best actions to drive a change mindset.
The architecture of the workshop was built around different modules with the same structure:
- Description of a specific change opportunity
- Experiences of effective tools and methods to solve critical issues related to the topic
- In sub-groups, application of the tools to real business cases and optimisation of winning actions in plenary
The opening module was all about the word “change” and focused on building awareness of the big difference between “deciding to change” and “changing effectively”. Participants considered things that can enable change, which they termed “knowing how to measure out the oil that keeps the engine working”.
During this programme I suggested there were five types of change, so five different challenges for Change Managers, because what matters is to “be clear to colleagues that we can no longer work in the past”. They were: organisational changes; changes related to people; process changes; priority/time changes; and changes related to methodologies/work tools.
Why do people resist change when everyone is asking for it? This was a problem that participants wanted to analyse in depth. They were truly interested in understanding how human beings cope with stress, break out of their comfort-zones and which solutions help them move forwards.
As an insight, an after-market manager thought that a particular change was within his comfort-zone, routine, with little impact on his emotional stability. But the same change was seen by one of his collaborators as a great leap into a place a long way from the status quo. The manager realised the importance of supporting his collaborator step-by-step, starting from identifying and accepting the change, then his overcoming resistance to it and finally getting him to accept a development opportunity that he previously felt he was unsuited to.
Taking a Gaussian distribution , only 10% of people really resist the change itself, and the remaining 90% feel fatigue towards a transformation for which they do not perceive any immediate advantages.
During the two-days of my workshop, I showed managers how to handle the dynamic between “having a reason to change” and “the fear of losing something they already have”. They also worked on the inevitable objections and main critical issues that their organisation will raise in the coming weeks and months.
During the closing round table session, I listened to positive feedback about taking home concrete actions and tools to manage their changes, and I watched people taking photos or wrestling with the flip charts on the walls. I reflected that if you want to accomplish a change, you have to sustain people through all stages of the process, using their active and creative energy to overcome resistance on a daily basis.
As Noel Tichy wrote in “The Leadership Engine”: “Leadership is about change… The best way to get people to venture into unknown terrain is to make it desirable by taking them there in their imaginations”.