Most organisations I talk to spend a lot of time thinking and talking about change. However, when I ask how they would rate the success of their previous change programmes, the stories I hear are often not ones of enthusiasm and success.
Why is that? I think it comes down to a couple of things; not taking action when you can see a change isn’t working, not having people engaged and ready for the change, and a lack of assessment and measurement of the change.
By paying attention to these three areas, I believe that we can change those stories of change into ones of success, enthusiasm and excitement.
Know when change isn’t working
Often people implement change and once it’s in motion, they assume that they can shift their focus elsewhere. However, this is when change can start to fail. After you have applied your change you must follow it up, keep a close eye on it, and assess whether it is working. From my experience, I’d suggest that there are 4 main give-aways for a change that isn’t working:
1. An unclear purpose
I’ve seen organisations implement enormous system changes but it often results in nobody using them because leaders of the change haven’t provided people with a clear understanding of the purpose of the change.
2. It feels wrong
Sometimes change feels counter-cultural. People might agree explicitly to the change but behind closed doors they may argue that it doesn’t feel right for the organisation. You’ll need to listen out for these conversations and pay attention to any feedback given to you
3. People are left behind
Organisations often make changes which lead to substantial financial success but they haven’t considered the full extent of the impact on people. Make sure you’ve clearly thought about how the change will impact the demand you’re placing on people’s workloads. A sign that this hasn’t been full considered could be a rise in turnover and absentees.
4. Lack of alignment
Different people can choose to lead change in different directions. There is often a real lack of alignment of leadership in unsuccessful change programmes, so make sure the leadership team is bought in to the ‘how’ of leading the change.
Get people ready for change
If your organisation has upcoming plans for a change initiative then engaging your people is vital. I believe that for this to happen you must consider these three key areas:
1. Develop your story
Developing a strong and coherent story is critical to building engagement. The story should provide a compelling reason for change that explains what the future may look like. For the change to be effective, your employees need to understand why the pain of change is worthwhile.
2. Enable your people
People need both the confidence and competence to engage with change. You must assess what skills people need for the change to be successful and explore the ways in which you can help them acquire any new skills they might need so they feel ready when the change comes.
3. Shape your process
Before you begin implementing your change make sure that you have a plan and share it with the organisation. If people know what is happening and when, then it will be easier for them to engage with the change.
Assess your change
Assessing change is the only way of knowing the extent of its success. Through qualitative (focus groups and interviews) and quantitative (surveys) methods, you can gain a true understanding of how your change has landed. Despite the fact that it is often easy to push your findings under the carpet and ignore the issues you have, I would encourage you to use these findings to continue to shape the change to ensure that it is successful.
The complexity of change is often overwhelming and can lead to chaos if it’s not managed well. Be aware of the signs that your change isn’t working and know how you can prepare your people to get around these issues. You not only want your change to run smoothly but you also want it to be a success. If you’re interested in exploring this topic further, I recently recorded a webinar on this topic and you can catch up here.