Manage Change

At Progress Consulting, our mission is to help organizations X•L•R•8•Progress™ – to see their optimal future more clearly …and realize it more quickly and easily™.

This posting explains how to better manage change to X•L•R•8•Progress™ !

My colleague and mentor, the late David Simmonds, referred to the ability to lead change is the ultimate test of a leader.

Sadly, success in the implementation of change is relatively rare. Consider these grim statistics.

  • Most major change initiatives, whether intended to boost quality, improve culture or reverse a corporate death spiral, generate only lukewarm results and many fail miserably (Harvard Business Review, “Leading Change Why Transformation Efforts Fail”, John P. Kotter, 2000)
  • Studies of past mergers show that two of every three deals have not worked; the only winners are often the shareholders of the acquired firm who sell their company for more than it’s really worth (The Economist, January 1999).
  • agrees that historical trends show that roughly 2/3rds of big mergers will disappoint
  • US government data indicates that 90% of small businesses fail within the first five years
  • Of the small businesses that do survive their first five years, half fail at some point during the following ten years
  • A Conference Board survey of 71 companies examines the “state of the art” in initiating changes in business enterprises
  1. 82% of survey respondents identified change management as a priority
  2. 99% expect an increased need for change management over the next three years.

One of the greatest wastes of productivity and human potential is the poor management of change. By the time many organizations address the issue of resistance to change, the hemorrhaging of resources and morale is well underway.
Most resistance to change is created. Whatever is created can be prevented. Therefore, adopt a two-part strategy:

  • First, prevent the most common forms of resistance
  • Then, apply specific skills to manage any resistance that does arise.

Resistance is usually created by approaching change management as an exercise in project management.

We believe:

Change Leadership + Project Management = Change Management.

“Change leadership” is usually the missing piece. Change leadership requires an appreciation of why and how people change and it requires a lot of courageous effort.By contrast, change efforts are driven by the leaders’ own negative emotions such as anger and fear. They literally fan the flames of resistance by treating questions, comments, criticism and evensuggestions as a discipline problem.

 One senior executive proudly assured me, “When I manage change, I take no prisoners”. So who declared war? In this case, it was the author of the change process who went into battle and treated the implementers as the enemy. It shouldn’t be a surprise that he soon found himself in the fight of his life.

Certain resistance is potentially beneficial but is often discouraged or ignored, such as where senior management mistakes some critically important advice from employees as resistance that needs to be quashed. These well-intended leaders seem to think they have considered every relevant perspective of their change initiative. The more complex the change, the less likely this is true.

And they don’t fully understand how change is a very human process that will be experienced by stakeholders very differently on a very personal and individual basis. To get this across, we begin by explaining to our clients:

Organizations don’t change until people do.
People do not change until persons do.
Change is a very personal experience.

This is our way of explaining that the successful management of change blends the science of project management with the science, art and compassion of psychology in the form of Change Leadership. When done well, everyone or nearly everyone is better off then they would have been had the change not been achieved.

The measure of successful change is not the absence of resistance. It is the effective and efficient achievement of the intended results. Keep your eyes on that prize. Lead people until that prize is within their reach. And then celebrate the results with them.

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