To improve, something must change, but not everyone wants to change. This article looks at ways to overcome this, drawn from my personal experiences.
The need, desire or pressure to improve is a constant factor in many people’s lives. The need is usually driven by necessity, the desire is usually driven by personal ambition, whereas the pressure is usually driven by external factors and other people. But whatever the motivation, change is needed to achieve the desired outcome. After all, if you always do what you always did etc.
In business, the pressure to change is sometimes driven by external factors, such as legislation, market forces, shareholder pressure, but often, just plain old survival. In many cases, doing nothing can be terminal, but so can doing the wrong thing; think Kodak or Blockbuster.
Attitudes to change
Many people don’t like change, don’t want to change, or don’t see the need to change; they want things to stay as they are, to maintain the status quo within their existing comfort zone. This must be overcome, otherwise people will passively or actively resist change.
Change involves making choices, choices made at personal risk, and risk to those affected. In a world where 70% of change initiatives fail, the odds are against you getting it right. Make the right choices and you’re a hero; make the wrong choices, and you’re a villain looking for a new job.
To understand why people resist change, let’s look at what causes 70% of change initiatives to fail. According to Kotter, McKinsey, Blanchard and many others, the reasons include poor executive sponsorship or senior management support, lack of employee involvement in the change process, absent or ineffective change champions, and an ad hoc approach to planning and managing change. I would add no ‘endgame’, choosing the wrong things to change, bad timing, no or low budget, poor communication, and no pre-defined measures of success.
Overcoming the resistance to change
Let’s break this down and look at ways to overcome resistance to change, with a little help from Rudyard Kipling and his Six Honest Serving Men. Before that, I confess to believing passionately that harnessing the collective wisdom of those affected by impending change greatly enhances your chances of success. I have applied this approach for over 20 years, proving it on ~50 change initiatives.
1. The endgame i.e. the where, when and why
Any change initiative must start with a clear endgame, starting with where, i.e. where you want to be when the programme is complete, when you what to get there, and a strong, compelling reason why. This endgame, plus a clear understanding of the associated risks and benefits, is vital when building the business case, securing the budget, developing the plan, and communicating the programme. Failure to define succinctly and communicate clearly the endgame will result in individual and collective indifference or resistance.
2. What to change i.e. the what
Businesses have multiple business units, with many moving parts and complex interdependencies. Take sales; multiple inputs and stakeholders, complex systems and processes, governance and KPIs. Harnessing the collective wisdom of everyone with a stake in the endgame will highlight what works (to keep) and what doesn’t (to bin), and therefore exactly what to change. This can be achieved quickly and effectively using an online business 360. Choosing the wrong things will result in a great deal of wasted time and money, and probably cost the programme owner their job. Perhaps this is why Sales Directors last only 19 months on average?
3. Timescales i.e. the when
Armed with a clear endgame, and agreement on what to change, timescales are next. There is never an ideal time for change; it’s about balancing operational consideration against strategic imperatives and business objectives. Timescales must consider the pace of change; not too fast, but not too slow. Collective wisdom outputs will help clarify the degree of urgency. Get the timing wrong, and the initiative will stall or fail.
4. Budget i.e. the how much
Change has a cost, so you need a budget to cover this. As part of the endgame, you will have defined the anticipated risks and benefits, so the budget must be proportionate, enabling a compelling ROI to be achieved, which you will need to gain senior-level sponsorship and support.
5. Senior level sponsorship and support i.e. the senior who
You know the endgame, what to change, timescales and budget, and it’s fair to assume this has been achieved with a degree of consultation up the line, so gaining senior level sponsorship and support should not be too difficult. A business case that references the collective wisdom outputs will help, as it underpins the everything discussed above.
6. Planning, managing and communicating change i.e. the how
It’s now time to produce a plan to initiate, execute and manage the agreed change initiative, including key milestones, review meetings, measures-of-success, and risk mitigation. Once approved, you can begin to communicate the programme to those affected. One of the major benefits of harnessing collective wisdom is that everyone will be aware of, and has contributed to shaping the initiative, and will, therefore, be more receptive. Communication should come from the highest possible level, and focus on the endgame, what will change, the timescales, the plan, and the WIIFM question, thereby maximise acceptance, and your chances of success.
7. Employee involvement and change champions i.e. the wider who
Everything to date has included some employee involvement, so identifying and recruiting change champions shouldn’t be difficult. We suggested this approach as part of a major turnaround project in 2016. Six workstreams were created, each populated with volunteers, who were given the collective wisdom outputs as input. Each group had a monthly 15-minute call with the senior sponsor, with team members taking turns in presenting. This generated a lot of discretionary effort within the business, a major contributing factor in the project’s overall success.
8. Measuring success
Achieving the endgame is the primary measure of success. Progress can be measured at regular intervals by repeating the 360. This takes less than 10 minutes per person, providing qualitative and quantitative data that can be used to uncover blockers. Progress should be shared with everyone affected by the initiative, retaining their buy-in. Once the endgame is achieved, a meeting should be held to review, learn and adapt to the benefit of future programmes.
I hope you have found this article interesting and informative, and that you will adopt the appropriate aspects in your next change programme. Talk to me if you want to harness some collective wisdom using a Get to Great® 360, or you have any questions or comments.