Why do most organisational change efforts fail? And what can we do about it?

people-coffee-tea-meeting.jpg

By Adrian Amore, Director of Operations, Halycon

After helping many organisations achieve their change objectives I have spent considerable time talking with HR managers and IT departments about previous change management efforts. Through this process I have heard about all the failed attempts and the general consensus has been that previous change failed because of a number of different reasons (weak corporate culture, lack of participation, no buy-in, poor communication, lack of vision, underprepared training, and a lack of understanding about the end user). But recently, I have noticed that there is something a little deeper going on. A crucial thing to understand is how many previous change management projects have been deployed in the last 18 months, what were their timelines and success rates, and what current projects are live? The reason I ask these questions is because I have started to notice that some previous change efforts aren’t failing just due to the previously mentioned problems, they are failing because the staff and end user is growing tired of constant change.

The increase in change fatigue has become problematic for many organisations that rely on being agile and innovative. The ability to undertake multiple change projects and operate in a state of constant change is seen as a competitive advantage over larger but slower moving organisations. However, there are a few simple steps that can minimise the risk of exposing staff to change fatigue. Firstly, the change project must engage any external parties at the earliest possible time to allow for increased planning times and better understanding of the organisation. Secondly, once the process has begun it is vital to identify and celebrate any early wins that you have. This improves the morale of both the end users and the change agents, and offers early proof that this initiative is going to be different to previous failed attempts. And lastly, change agents must find opportunities to create experiences that support the vision and desired new culture that you are trying to foster. This helps to keep the change process on track and ensure that there is buy-in from all levels of the organisation.

A simple way to achieve this would be to engage an external change consultant before any decisions have been made about the timeline and process. Then ensure that the overall project is broken down into many smaller projects that can be completed and celebrated as they occur. And then, ensure that HR is involved every step of the way as they will ultimately be responsible for creating the experiences and ways of working that are desired by the change in first place.

Safeguarding against change fatigue will not guarantee that a change project will be a success, but it certainly reduces the possibility of a project failing before it starts.

Adrian Amore is the Director of Operations at IComm Australia, he is passionate about organisational change and change management. Follow Adrian on Twitter at @adrianamore2.