By Jana Axline, MBA, DTM, PMP, Axline Solutions
In my consulting experience, I have found that many companies struggle at managing change. They often move forward with an initiative without managing the change that needs to occur. Below are 8 of the common pitfalls that can cause a team to fail at leading a successful change initiative.
Fail to obtain leadership alignment. Change is hard. It’s exponentially harder if leaders are on separate pages. Take time to align your leadership team and coordinate messaging that will be shared throughout the organization.
Make change unidirectional. Change can rarely occur top down or bottom up and reach maximum success. Change needs to flow from both directions. While it may be initiated from one direction, it needs to be driven at all levels.
Fail to assess current state/future state and the gap between them. This manifests itself a few ways. Sometimes it’s rolling something out and fitting it to an old way of doing things without assessing if those processes should change. Other times it’s implementing something new without doing a gap analysis between the future state and where the team is today. When that happens, we often underestimate the size of the change, failing to craft our communications and training accurately.
Focus only on why the company benefits. Decisions are often made through the lens of what’s right for the company, and hopefully, if it’s right for the company it’s right for the employees. Messaging should be centered around why the employee should care about the change (and increased revenue is not why). How does the change directly impact their daily lives?
Ignore the cons. Don’t put lipstick on the pig. Most changes have a positive and negative aspects; don’t ignore the negative. The employee knows. And by ignoring it, it sends the message that the company doesn’t care.
Lack of communication. Not communicating enough or assuming one size fits all for communication is a mistake. Don’t make the mistake of believing if you’ve communicated it once, then everyone’s got it and they’re ready to move on. Communication needs to happen in various forms. It can take 8 occurrences of communication for one message to sink in. Thorough and effective communication is key.
Don’t check in. Along with not communicating enough, leaders may neglect to follow up and see how people are doing with the change. Taking a pulse periodically allows you to adjust your methods according to the current adoption rate.
Don’t align measures of success to end state. Often change will result in a change of what success looks like, yet how employees are rewarded doesn’t change. This encourages employees to continue doing things the way they’ve always done them. Align rewards with what success looks like now.
Whether you are rolling out a new policy, new software, or heading up a merger, change needs to be managed. In order to have successful projects, it’s important to plan change activities. By doing so, your employees and team members will be much happier.