Are Organizations Ready for Change?

What prompts change in organizations and is there really a 70% failure rate for implementing change?  The simple answer is that `a primary catalyst for change is that the current environment is no longer suited to meet organizational goals and objectives and there is varying data regarding success and failure associated with change initiatives. Common published statistics regarding change project failures fall between 65%-70%.  The statistics themselves are not new.  In fact, we have been aware of this data for over a decade.  What is significant, is that it is well known about the different reasons why projects fail but yet project failure continues for the same reasons.  Change management is still not considered a high enough priority within many organizations for there to be sufficient attention and investment.  This is similar to projects where change resistance is evident from the beginning.

Resistance to change often begins during the funding phase of the project.  The investment required for preparation is either not included in the request or is assumed activity within a technical project plan.  While PM’s on large projects certainly assume a certain level of responsibility for communications, development and communication of a specific change management project plan is essential to a project’s overall success.   How does an organization prepare for change and what are some examples?  There are several which include but are not limited to, an assessment of the organization’s readiness for change, executive level communication to key stakeholders of the organization’s vision and goals, assessment of impact to current and future state processes, clearly defined project sponsorship, development of a comprehensive change management plan with assigned and scheduled activities from awareness through reinforcement.  Executive sponsorship engagement needs to be apparent from project kickoff through post-implementation, celebrating milestone achievement along the way.  And above all, executive sponsorship in tandem with a uniform understanding and cohesive stakeholder approach is critical in order to achieve the organization’s vision and goals.

If there is there is insufficient financial investment in a disciplined change management approach, does it mean that organizations do not support transformational initiatives?  No, but it does indicate that there is opportunity for creating greater awareness regarding the tangible and intangible value of a change management methodology. When people understand the why of the change, they are more likely to have a desire to support the how of the change.

Some organizations are slow to change.  Other times, it is the result of a significant event which necessitates immediate action.  And sometimes change is initiated by taking a disruptive innovation approach because there is a desire to make a significantly impact the company’s market position. In all scenarios, it is a time of opportunity to create a new/refreshed vision, enhance capabilities in service delivery, or elevate productivity, efficiency and engagement through creative performance management.  Perhaps new market entrants require a firm to re-ignite their competitive edge through changes in marketing/sale strategy, operations management, technology solutions, and human capital management. Whatever the reason may be, instituting change requires an objective and realistic perspective of where the organization is today, needed systems changes and processes, and how positive modifications in cultural norms and behaviors will help achieve tomorrow’s goals.

How does an individual/team/organization prepare and successfully adapt to the change?  Where do responsibilities lie for sponsorship, facilitation, training, engagement, and reinforcement?  What are the pitfalls and how do you prevent their occurrence?   How do you counter resistance to change?  These are some of the many questions that DM&A addresses through a collaborative process of effective change management planning and implementation.

Because the ultimate goal of change management is to drive organizational results and outcomes by engaging employees and inspiring their adoption of a new way of working. Whether it is a process, system, job role or organizational structure change (or all of the above), a project is only successful if individual employees change their daily behaviors and start performing their jobs in the way that supports the new environment. This is the essence of change management.

Diane Meiller and Associates, Incorporated (DM&A), founded in January 2006, is a performance excellence firm headquartered in Orlando, Florida