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Making Change Happen

~ By Kevin Dwyer

Traffic sign clock and future road: time for change

Seventy percent of all change management projects are considered to be failures.

The critical factors for change management success or failure are fairly simple.

The first factor is to have a group of people at leadership level believe that change is required. More than that, they must believe that "change management" is required. If these factors are not evident then failure is assured.

Understanding that major change is required is not enough. Developing a project plan which includes changes to processes, policies and infrastructure that does not include a plan to manage the change at a people level is not enough.

The second requirement is that the people undergoing change must have a reason to believe the change is necessary. They need the big picture painted for them to understand what benefits the organisation will gain from what many people will consider as the shared pain of change.

The big picture must be compelling, giving as many people in the organisation the desire to embrace the change even if it is difficult. Organisational change for organisational change's sake is likely to fail to deliver change.

The third requirement is that individuals must know how the change will affect them as individuals. Never forget the greatest motivational tool is to be able to respond to the question, What's in it for me?

For most individuals in most organisations, motivation is about achievement, recognition, the work itself, responsibility, advancement and personal growth. So be sure that the change message addresses as best it can the motivational opportunities for people.

The fourth requirement is to "tell them early, tell them often." Do not be surprised how many times the message needs to be repeated to the same people. Human beings filter information based on their emotional state, their previous experiences and their thinking styles. In a time of significant change people are often in emotional turmoil and will filter severely whatever they are told.

Tell people the compelling reason for the change, the plan for change, the progress of the plan for change including any early wins and their role in change, again and again as the project is implemented.

The fifth requirement is to be honest about the change. Sugar coating change is seen as being untrustworthy and will adversely impact the ability to communicate with the very people who have to embrace and implement the change.

If there is any bad news say so. If jobs are going to be lost, say so. If there are going to be challenges with the change, say so. If people have to re-skill, say so. If the targets are going to become much tougher, say so. Do not dress mutton as lamb. If an insignificant advantage will accrue to people, do not make it seem more significant than it is.

If you are honest about change and you don't know about some of the implications, you may have a significant number of people actually believe you. When you ask for help in making the change work, you may get a positive response. Be dishonest and even your best workers will smell a rat and treat you like one.

The sixth requirement is to utilise project management processes and skills. For those involved in change management who do not use project management processes and skills the simple advice is, If I were you, I would not have started there.

Project management processes and outputs play a big part in both planning and communicating the changes anticipated. They assist in risk management, contingency planning, change control, resource management, prioritisation and post implementation review of the change.

Far too many organisations embark on change in manner best described in the vernacular language, as flying by the seat of their pants. They do not plan change. They do not estimate the resources required by change. They do not plan the precursors to events required to make the change happen. They do not understand the risks and plan the contingencies. They usually reap the rewards with a failed change project.

Managing change is not easy. However, it is not as difficult as a seventy percent failure rate would make it seem. It needs to be taken as seriously as managing the finances of an organisation or the safety of an organisation.

Managing change requires a leadership team with project management, communication and analytical skills with a high degree of results orientation. The latter is important as when a journey of change is embarked upon, the environment in which the change is being implemented immediately changes. A changing environment often calls for changed tactics to achieve the same result.

More than that it requires the leadership team to have a vision for what the change can bring to the organisation and to individuals and a passion to make that change happen.


Kevin Dwyer is the founder of Change Factory. Change Factory helps organisations who do not like their business outcomes to get better outcomes by changing people's behaviour. Businesses we help have greater clarity of purpose and ability to achieve their desired business outcomes. To learn more or see more articles visit Change Factory or email kevin.dwyer@changefactory.com.au


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