With the rapid changes in technology and globalization the past decade has seen organizations of all types undergo change more than ever before. The experiences of other organizations that have undergone change initiatives large and small serve to teach us about what works and what doesn’t work when trying to introduce and implement change. Though varying sources stress competing factors as critical to the success or failure of these initiatives, certain underlying themes are common among theories. In this case, we examine the “don’ts” of implementing change in an organization. Outlined below are the five most common mistakes made by organizations when introducing a change implementation program and tips for how to avoid these pitfalls.
1. Not Building a Task Force
One of the biggest mistakes senior management makes when introducing change is to assume that key management will back the proposed effort. Not developing a team dedicated to the introduction and implementation of change puts more pressure on the key drivers. Moving too fast without winning over adequate support from the organization’s leadership may cause conflict and confusion down the road. Top leaders must recruit and work with a team strategically formed to introduce and implement change. This team must be made up of influential leaders. The members should be individuals who are known for exhibiting strong relationship management skills as well as task management skills. The chosen task force will be crucial in encouraging adoption of change by staff members at all levels. Even after forming a designated task force and ensuring lower level management is on board, change leaders must remain personally involved and committed to the effort. It is important to remain enthusiastic and positive about the organization’s goals and aligning one’s thoughts and actions to support the transformation process to the end.
2. Assuming Responses to Change Will be Unanimous
If you have been reading about change management, you have undoubtedly come across the notion that staff members are likely to approach change with fear and resistance. These are common themes in a litany of challenges organizations facing change must strive to overcome. Even so, you mustn’t make the mistake of thinking that everyone feels the exact same way. It is a common mistake to assume that everyone within an organization will be on the same page (on one end of the spectrum or the other) when it comes to change. Even fear and resistance, which are common in transformation scenarios, exhibit themselves to varying degrees in individuals.
Since individuals adopt change at different rates, evaluate who your early adopters (those likely to accept and embrace new concepts, technologies, etc.) are and leverage them in your strategy to execute change, while patiently nurturing those who are slower to accept change. Consider inducting some early adopters into your change coalition and enlist their help in influencing others and encouraging them to open up to new ideas and ways of doing things.
3. Not Providing Enough Face Time
This mistake relates to changing employees behaviors versus shifting their attitude or improving their knowledge. The ultimate goal is to change the actions of employees. Improving knowledge or attitudes is chiefly a means to that end. As the cliché says, “actions speak louder than words.” Behaviour is impacted by one-on-one communication and counseling. Group training sessions, mass communications and computer-based information transmissions are excellent ways of improving knowledge, but not such excellent ways of changing actions and behaviours.
One of the key mistakes made by organizations when implementing change is assuming that disseminating knowledge alone is adequate in executing change. By focusing solely on communicating new ideas within the organization en masse, leaders are neglecting the type of communication that effectively shifts behaviour patterns. Honest, open, interpersonal dialogues are more effective in changing behaviour. This is where your organization’s change task force can make a big impact. Though these types of communication require greater effort, they are more effective in affecting change.
4. Not Sticking to the Vision
Once the decision to change has been made, the change coalition recruited, and the need for change communicated, you may feel that you’re on your way to a successful transformation. A common mistake made by organizations when implementing change is not defining, communicating, and sticking to a clear vision for what direction the necessary change must take. Even when a clear vision is defined and communicated in the early stages of change, often times leaders get sidetracked and fail to integrate and align all initiatives to be consistent with said vision. Management and staff at all levels must continuously analyze whether projects and activities are consistent with the overarching goals of the organization.
5. Failing to Plan Small Successive Successes
An important part of sticking to the vision is to create opportunities to achieve smaller goals along the way. These small successes will not only work directly toward achieving the desired change, but will create positive feelings of accomplishment and the drive to pursue the next goal. Overlooking the value of setting small, attainable stepping-stone goals makes organizations miss opportunities to motivate staff and make change enjoyable and rewarding. Not defining clear milestones toward the desired change can make the end result seem far off and unattainable.
If you’re in the beginning stages of the change process, you’ll be well prepared to avoid the mistakes that others have made. If your organization has already been on the road to transformation for a while, you may or may not have experienced these issues firsthand. No matter which stage of the change process your organization is in, it is never too late to consider the dangerous pitfalls that may sabotage your efforts.