According to a recent survey, 85% of C-Level Execs say that their “change initiatives” fail. That’s 15% success rate.
There are books, studies, tons of training about how to successfully incorporate change management. Yet time after time, change sputters to an ignoble end in most organizations. Why is that?
There are of course many reasons for lack of success. Not properly thought out, needed resources not applied to the change and so on. But the absolute, most significant reason for failure in Change Management is that the do’ers are not the decision makers.
We first have to look at the role of management in today’s companies. Any company, managers are no longer strictly managers. You have your own responsibilities, things you need to get done, reports, meetings and so on. Managing the department and its people is an actual side responsibility for today’s manager, that gets fitted in whenever there is time (which there isn’t) or when there is a crisis (which there is).
So the manager’s direct reports are required to be more self directed then ever before with greater responsibility for projects completions. That doesn’t mean that you can’t get some direction from your manager, but chances are it will be a quick in and out, specific questions and answers, then off goes the manager to the next meeting.
The days of management spending their days available to provide direction, focus on observing, supporting, cultivating their people’s skills is over. So, people need to “step up to the plate”, “show initiative” and I’m sure there’s a few more clichés!
When change is needed, those that are needed to successfully carry out the change (the do’ers) most likely going to be those front line people. After the entire program is rolled out and the hoopla and the PowerPoint slides get put away, it’s the individual contributor that will be needed to implement the change desired and sustain it. The managers are on to the next crisis, problem of the moment. And what’s wrong with that?
After all, they told everybody what they need to do! Management spent weeks, if not months working out what everybody’s responsibilities were and who needs to report what. So what happened? Or more importantly, what didn’t happen?
Once again, the do’ers were not the decision makers.
Let’s play a game. Let’s pretend even that the change coming down actually is a workable process. When management locked themselves in a room and looked at the change needed, they actually got it right. They understood all the important elements and how they need to fit in order for the change to be successful. It will work, right? Certainly better chances, but guess what, it ain’t gonna happen.
In order for change to be fully implemented and successful one of two things need to happen.
1. The management (decision makers) needs to ride herd on it. They need to ensure that all elements are put in place, unexpected obstacles are dealt with quickly, that needed behavior is changed on a permanent basis, that uncertainty and questions regarding what needs to be done are resolved immediately to keep the change moving in a positive direction. And as mentioned previously, management has galloped off towards a new project leaving the front line people responsible for its implementation.
2. The do’ers have seats at the table. And I’m not talking about a representative in a room full of managers. In fact they should be all the people at the table.
Let’s go back to the “perfect plan” that the manager’s came up with. Let’s pretend that the room full of front line people actually came up with the exact same plan. Will there be a difference? Absolutely!
The people that know exactly what needs to be done, the people that have strong buy-in to the success of the “change” will now be those actually implementing and maintaining the change.
The do’ers and the decision makers are now the same people. If you use the proper people on the committee, enlisting “influencers” to design and bring the change to the organization, you will not only have them committed and enthusiastic about what is happening, but also the people that are influenced and trust them. Much greater chance of success.
And guess what? Less work for the managers! If you do form a committee, give them the question. What do we need to do to XXX? Improve profits, quality, output, etc. Give them a broad outline. Have the committee, full of who will be required to achieve the change, formulate the path forward. Chances are it will also deal with stumbling blocks that management didn’t even think about.
And it’s their plan! And which would anyone be more dedicated to seeing succeed, a plan that you helped create and form or something (possibly unworkable) imposed from someone else?
Obviously, there needs to be management involvement in any change committee’s work. Management needs a representative to ensure the goal remains focused and a voice for how and where management can support the change needed.
And isn’t that what management is suppose to do?
The closer management comes to understanding that their job is not to TELL people what they need to do, but support their people in being effective contributors of the organization, the better the chance of success of the individual, the department, the organization and any change that needs to be implemented.
The irony of course is that in order for Change Management to work, the first step required is to change management’s way of doing business. And when the do’ers are the decision makers, good things can happen.