Sounds exciting, doesn’t it?
Change grabs our emotions and we imagine how life could be better, new, cool, innovative… Who wouldn’t want these? When sold well change can seem like the most fascinating, desirable thing going.
For those who’ve been through much-vaunted changes, be it personally with homes or relationships, or at work, it can be all the above, but I’ve yet to meet the person whose changes always run smoothly. Uncertainty is guaranteed, which unsettles most of us, at least a little.
However, being resilient human beings we tend to adapt and make the best of it. “Things are rarely as bad as you thought”.
So if we want change so much, and we know there will be bumps in the road, why is it that change so often fails? Well reputed surveys put change project success way below 50%. Just think about that…more than half are a waste of time, resources and energy that de-motivate teams at the cost of other opportunities.
Why? And what can we do to anticipate this? Successful change takes time, so here are some more specific pitfalls, with some ideas to improve your odds.
Does our business have a clear vision that differentiates it from the competition? One that comes from our customer and we are all clear of and aligned upon, that we use as our North Star? I see very few like this; and one of the results is that when an interesting change comes along it is evaluated on ‘excitement’ or ‘everyone else is, so we should’ rather than how it helps us achieve our vision. Always ask how a change takes us closer to our destination.
In this age of extremity, to get support there is almost a requirement to over-dramatize an initiative. People flock to the big change, but when it takes a realistic amount of time, effort and money things can quickly head south. Like buying a car, when considering change kick the tires and look under the hood before signing on the dotted line. Some opportunities are too good to be true.
Skills and Experience
Selling an idea takes skill. Making it happen takes a different skillset. We must recognize this, and allocate resources appropriately. If someone can help move things along quickly then invest up front to build all-important momentum and improve the chance of success.
Achieving your vision will require compromise. You must win over the sceptics, probably incorporating some of their ideas (which may well enhance the product!) And be patient to get that support. Change takes time, and with a clear goal evolution often works better than revolution.
We set off on a program and then what happens? Along comes an even more exciting change program. Interest in the existing one wanes and it fizzles out like a damp squib. Regular reviews and communication of the vision and how the change builds to it will keep everyone focused and deliver results.
We make decisions on emotions, gut feel; then we find data to support our decision. We try to balance this by requiring detailed proposals and broad leadership teams. But boards can consist of similar people who support the boss for self-interest. If an unpopular opinion is voiced, even if it makes sense, it’s often rejected or re-work requested. We must recognize this and, if we are to succeed, try to be as open minded as we can to other points of view.
Change can be cool, fun, exciting and valuable. However, it is rarely easy. We must choose initiatives with our goals in mind, and then ensure we have the right resources, flexibility and stickability to deliver the results. If the program is on strategy and we’re patient then we can realize all the benefits, and more.