The Physics of Change
How I Learned About the Power of Authenticity

Why-Change-Efforts-FailChances are you will initiate a change that affects your whole team or start a major team project in the near future.

And chances are it will not make the impact you had hoped for.

A 2008 study by IBM found that over 60 percent of change efforts fail to fully meet their objectives, and a 2013 Towers Watson study revealed only 25% are sustained over time.

Most change efforts fail, not because of the technology or the topic of the change or even because it was the wrong idea. They fail because of the human factor.

Have you ever experience any of these human factor derailers?

  • Halfway through the project you discover you don’t have the support needed from senior management.
  • Your team is not enthusiastic or they don’t assume full responsibility, and little things slip through the cracks.
  • When you are ready to implement, some people not on your team do not follow through on the little that is required of them.

Your idea might have been a great idea. It might actually have been the right thing to do. But it failed because of the “human factor.”

7 Guidelines to Successfully Navigate the Human Factor

1. The purpose and need for the change must be clear and compelling.

Everyone on your team needs to understand why the change is important, how the team will benefit and why doing nothing is not an option.

There must be a clear connection between the goals of the change effort and your team’s goals, projects, and daily activities. People need to see how the change will impact them.

2. Show the whole picture – the vision of the end-result AND the roadmap to get there.

People need to know what this will look like when it’s completed, and they need to know where they are on the journey.

Create a “change roadmap” that shows the whole picture so people can see what phase they’re in, where they fit, and the steps and activities in the change process. The plans must include a commitment to build and follow through on an implementation plan.

Be prepared to modify the roadmap as you proceed. Planning and action should be iterative, not sequential.

3. Involve your team and all key stakeholders deeply and early on.

If you want to make smart decisions, don’t craft the vision and roadmap in a vacuum. Ask, “Is this the right thing to do?” and “What’s the best way to do it?” Draw on the collective wisdom of your team.

Through involvement, people develop deeper understanding and commitment, and you make smarter decisions. Critical decisions that must be supported throughout the organization need input from all stakeholders groups.

If the change is large and involves multiple stakeholder groups, set up a “Change Team,” comprised of a microcosm of the larger organization, to guide the effort. The Change Team should report to senior leaders, but needs to have decision-making authority.

4. Senior leaders must demonstrate their commitment.

The key decision makers must be visible and active sponsors, stay informed and involved, provide the needed resources (dollars, time, people, etc.), and remove roadblocks.

If you have a Change Team, a senior leader should be an active member of that team.

5. The approach to the change effort needs to be consistent with the desired ends.

You may implement a very good solution, but if people don’t feel good about how it is implemented, they will not fully support it.

The change process itself must be driven by the values you want to instill. For example, if becoming a learning organization is one of the desired outcomes, then the change process must promote and support learning. If participation is a value, the change process must be participative.

6. Integrate the change work with real work.

Build the goals of the change effort into your team’s goals so it is seen as part of their job. My colleague Jake Jacobs, developer of Real Time Strategic Change, points out: when the tasks of the change effort are seen extra work, they go to the bottom of the list when time gets tight and you need to re-prioritize.

7. Over communicate.

Clear and frequent messaging and communication are essential to keep the change effort front and center of everyone’s mind. Early on it is important to broadly communicate the logic for the change and the vision of success. In later phases, keep people up to date on progress, changes to the roadmap, and short-term wins as well as the big ones. Refer to the vision frequently throughout the planning, implementation, and after.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia Charlie Chaplin Creative Commons | Why Change Efforts Fail
The Physics of Change
How I Learned About the Power of Authenticity

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