Change is necessary. All companies must endure it to adapt to evolving industries, improve upon products and services, and grow in customer base and revenue. The right approach to change can leave your business more sustainable in the present and better suited for a successful future.
Unfortunately, the right approach to change is hard to define, and even harder to implement. In a McKinsey Global Survey on digital transformation, only 37% of respondents reported successful implementation of organizational change. As much as companies may want and need to change, the majority find themselves stuck in place.
Despite what the statistics imply, change is not impossible. In fact, many change initiatives fail because of the same preventable problems. Learning from the mistakes other companies have made can help you avoid setbacks and obstacles.
As you approach your next organizational change, watch out for these five common mistakes that can quickly undermine your change management efforts.
1. Poor Planning
Executing company-wide change is a highly systematic process, which is why creating a detailed plan is essential. When those plans are absent or underdeveloped, it creates confusion and redundancy, limiting the true scope of change.
A proper plan should contain clearly articulated goals, detailed steps for achieving those goals, realistic timelines, and resources to guide employees and stakeholders through the process. It should also be paired with a communication framework that guides your team in communicating the right information to relevant stakeholders at the right time. Research shows that companies with good communication and change management plans and practices are 3.5 times as likely to outperform their peers.
2. A Lack in Leadership
Having a good plan in place for your change management project means nothing without proper support from leadership. It’s common for organizational change projects to become disorganized and lose steam due to lack of guidance. Leadership is about providing credibility, vision, and motivation to those who will be responsible for implementing that change throughout your company. Set clear and achievable goals for your team and direct them along the way. Instead of talking about change vaguely, define exact quotas, benchmarks, and timelines you want teams to hit. In a Harvard Business Review leadership study, global leaders ranked setting goals and communicating expectations as two of the top three traits that leadership requires.
3. Disengaged Employees
Change may be enacted by executives, but it’s implemented by your employees. Employee buy-in and engagement are critical, but can also be hard to earn and sustain. People are naturally resistant to change, and engagement suffers when plans are implemented too quickly and poorly explained.
It’s essential that the leaders driving the change provide the reasons behind the change and set expectations for all employees on how the change will take place. Adequate support, resources, and clear communication are key to preventing that change from being rejected and making it easier to be adopted into the workflow. More than 75% of the workers at “high-effectiveness organizations” report that management explains change well. At “low-effectiveness organizations,” only 7% of respondents say the same.
To communicate change in a way that fosters engagement and employee buy-in, it helps to use storytelling tactics to connect the new process or solution with ways it will improve employees’ work. Incorporating storytelling in your change management plan can inspire and motivate your employees to participate in driving the change forward and maintaining it once it’s in place.
4. Technology Takes the Lead
Technology often drives change, especially as companies prioritize digital transformation. One extremely common mistake is assuming that technology will solve organizational issues while radically transforming companies for the better. Ultimately, technology can’t fix poor process. The success or failure of a technology implementation depends on the strength of your processes – the policies, practices, and workflows that make up your daily efforts. Technology merely facilitates those processes.
When it comes to implementing technologies, 84% of companies fail at digital transformation, which is even higher than those that fail at change management — suggesting that a tech-first focus isn’t the best way to approach change.
Instead, approach any new technology solution with a process-first mentality. Before diving into the features of your new solution, audit your existing process. Identify pain points or roadblocks for each team this change will impact, and find ways to use technology to streamline or improve current workflows. This way, you can better identify what your teams need from the technology in order to support their work; and drive your change forward with process improvements supported by robust technology.
5. Slow Progress
Change takes time, but moving too slowly can be just as inefficient as not changing at all. A change initiative that’s taking a long time to plan or implement risks becoming irrelevant. It’s also likely to feel underwhelming to employees since the benefits won’t be seen immediately. Keep change on schedule, but also be flexible and willing to abandon what doesn’t work. Simply stated, sometimes change has to change.
If things aren’t going as quickly or smoothly as you originally planned, be willing to stop and assess the change process — even when you’re in the middle of it. Set up an open channel for feedback and ask employees to provide input on what’s holding them back from fully implementing the change. You may discover a roadblock you hadn’t anticipated, and with this knowledge, you can involve your staff in determining a solution. It’s better to pivot halfway through and finish a bit behind schedule than to power through with a change management strategy that’s clearly not working for your organization.
Navigate Change with the Right Consulting Partner
With so much that can go wrong, it’s tempting to avoid or delay organization-wide changes, but continuing with an old approach is often more damaging than venturing into the unknown. Disruption, transformation, and unpredictability are the defining features of today’s markets — which means you need to embrace change to remain successful.
With the right partner, you can implement and manage change painlessly and effectively. At RelationEdge, our Process First. Technology Second.® approach takes clients through change in a smooth and structured way, from start to finish. Using our PACED methodology and a tailored communication framework, we’re able to implement change in phases that are made transparent and understandable to your entire organization.
All changes hit roadblocks, but RelationEdge helps your organization overcome these challenges and successfully evolve. Our approach has been tried and tested by businesses of all different sizes, in a wide range of industries. In fact, we’ve implemented change through over 2,000 projects — and we can help you with your next organizational change.
Contact us now to find out how we guide you carefully through the change management process to drive transformative business value.