Top 5 Mistakes Made by Organizations When Implementing Change

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.

How to Avoid 8 Common Mistakes of Managing Change

Apprehension is a common side effect of dealing with the prospect of change. Change is scary, no one questions that. But how you manage fear is a strong indicator of how you will manage change. Whether you’re a leader charged with creating and implementing change or an employee who will feel the affects, doing something new, different, and out-of-the-ordinary takes hard work, determination and a little bit of faith.

All too often, however, great leaders buckle under this pressure. Managers climb the corporate ladder seeking more responsibility and, yes, more compensation, but have never actually been trained or schooled in navigating the challenges faced by a manager or leader. So all of a sudden, hard-working, smart people are at the top rung saying, “Now what?” In walks their boss and says, “We’re going to start doing things a bit differently around here and I want you to implement it.” Talk about instilling fear! So naturally, there are mistakes that are made along the way. Your chances of dissipating fear before it arises increases dramatically if you become aware of these pitfalls before you embark on your new strategy or plan with your group.

Author and extraordinary thinker John Kottler wrote a book called “Leading Change.” He points out that while we strive to focus on the positives and the “what you should do” tactics, it’s also important to look at the potential mistakes that can take place as well. Kottler suggests that while there are many different types of missteps that people can make, there are eight critical ones. If you could reduce the error rate right out of the gate, it just might make the process of change a bit less painful – perhaps even invigorating.

Let’s take a look at those situations that Kottler believes are the biggest mistakes, and then think about how you can avoid making them.

1. Forgetting that the change must happen quickly. If you don’t spark that fire in your employees or customers, they won’t be motivated to chip in and your efforts will fall flat. Make sure you create a sense of urgency for the need for change. Showcase what could happen if the change didn’t happen now so that your team will fully understand the consequences.

2. Not building a team that will guide the change. Creating change is hard work but many companies assume the opposite. If you don’t have a guiding coalition that will institute the vision, you will fail. This team must believe in the vision and keep moving forward to create the necessary changes.

3. Lacking clear vision or foresight. How are you going to get people on board and believe in what’s taking place if you don’t have a clear vision of what’s needed? And worse, what if you have a fantastic vision but don’t communicate it? Your employees and customers don’t really know what’s happening. Without clear vision, your tactics and strategies for change will become confusing and your efforts will lack direction. Be clear with what you want to happen so that others understand as well.

4. Forgetting to communicate the vision. As eluded to above, if you have a great vision but don’t communicate it to your team, your efforts will fall short. Unless you have everyone on board helping – even if it requires pointing out short-term sacrifices for long-term gains – you will never create change; you will only create the fear of the unknown. People want leaders to guide them and communication is essential to successfully doing so.

5. Letting obstacles get in the way of the vision. Negative attributes in any circumstance will mitigate positive movement so don’t be married to trying to fulfill a new vision using old structures and standards. Whether it’s a middle manager who isn’t buying in to the plan for change or an organizational structure where current jobs don’t encompass enough responsibility to make change, you must remove any obstacles (potential or real) that could stop the process from happening.

6. Failing to make plans. Notice I didn’t say “plan.” You need to have short-term and long-term plans about how you’re going to reach your goals. If you plan to meet short-term goals, chances are, you’ll meet them. If you only talk about and hope to meet them, you’re taking a passive approach to creating change. Be proactive. Look for ways to establish obtainable goals throughout the year and then put plans and strategies in place that will achieve those goals. Ultimately, all of the small goal wins should contribute to the larger, long-term plan.

7. Prematurely celebrating victory. Of course, this is very easy to do, but make sure that even though you should praise achievement of short-term goals, the game really isn’t over until you’ve solved your bigger problems.

8. Not establishing the new way of doing things into the company’s culture. It’s one thing to successfully solve and meet your goals. It’s another thing to live by the new mantra. Change has not truly been successful until you’ve engrained it into the culture of those you do business with.