Organizational Change Management is Not Easy: 5 Tips For Success

If you read Forbes, the New York Times and the scores of articles on the web, social media, and in magazines, you will see that studies all seem to indicate that approximately 70% of organizational change management initiatives fail.

“Most traditional organizations have accepted, in theory, that they must either change or die,” wrote Nitin Nohria and Michael Beer in a 2010 piece from the Harvard Business Review titled “Cracking the Code of Change states that “even Internet companies such as eBay,, and America Online recognize that they need to manage the changes associated with rapid entrepreneurial growth. Despite some individual successes, however, change remains difficult to pull off, and few companies manage the process as well as they would like. Most of their initiatives—installing new technology, downsizing, restructuring, or trying to change corporate culture—have had low success rates. The unfortunate fact is that about 70 percent of all change initiatives fail.”

organizational change

So, what makes organizational change management necessary…yet so

The truth is because some people just want to do things the way they want even though they know that new technology, new competition, generational preferences are requiring change in all of our business and our daily lives.  To adapt, we must be willing to embrace continuous change instead of taking the approach that “this is the way we have always done it and it works fine”.

Dropping a quarter in a pay phone located at a store or busy intersection used to work fine, but now 81% of Americans own a
smartphone and many own two or three and according to Bustle, nearly ¾ of individuals surveyed  sleep with them.

Flagging down a cab used to work fine too, but Uber changed that forever making it simple to get a cab in the rain, pay the
driver safely, and sore the driver to make the experience more user friendly.

Having to fly all over the country for a meeting used to work fine, but now we can have a video meeting instantly or simply
Facetime someone on our phone.

“We live in a moment of history where change is so speeded up that we begin to see the present only when it is already disappearing.” – R. D. Laing

Here are 5 Tips for Success with Your Organizational Change Initiative

  1. Stay focused

If you try to juggle too many balls at once, you are bound to drop a bunch if not all of them.  Same thing with a change management initiative. Prioritize initiatives and pick a place to start and then stay focused on your success criteria to ensure that the initiative receives the attention it deserves. Share the success metrics and the data to share the results to
influence change in others who may not be as quick to embrace new things.

2) Perfection is elusive.

No change management initiative goes perfectly.  If you strive for perfection, you run the risk of having your success seen as a failure. Perform change management initiatives to the best of your ability, but spending too much time on things that are not important will have negative results. 

3) Communicate openly

Given the nature of the initiative, it is important that you have regular communication and transparency with all key stakeholder.  Determine how much data, details, and information that you are comfortable sharing.  By being open, you bring everyone together and that is very important through an organizational change process.

4) Empower your teams

We are all fine with being led.  However, there are very few people who want to be micromanaged.  Empower your teams to embrace the change that is taking place, but show them you are part of the process.  A lot of leaders fail by asking their teams to change but then they don’t embrace the change.  It starts at the top and leadership by example, not by overmanaging, improcess the likelihood of successful outcomes considerably. 

5) Reward your change agents
Sales people are rewarded with commissions.  Operational employees are rewarded for saving money.  Reward your team members who have embraced change with recognition, with small tokens of appreciation, by letting them share the success in front of the groups you are trying to change. 

There are two fantastic and well known resources you may find helpful.

  1. The first is Team of Teams which is research on organizational change throughout a period of time, drawing examples from business, history, and innovation across multiple business verticals.
  2. The second  is Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard, written by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. Both are brothers who are professors at Duke University and the Stanford University Graduate School of Business. Both brothers are considered experts on individual and organization change.

Both show great examples with outcomes that organizations can put to work today to successfully implement a change
management campaign.

Good luck with your change management initiative and remember nothing worth having comes easy. 

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