The world moves fast today. Demographics are rapidly changing, and customer demands are changing along with them. Technology leapfrogs further every year — and woe to those who don’t keep up. In this environment, organizations have no choice but to master the art of change management. My friend Tony Robbins often says that “doing what you’ve always done will get you what you’ve always gotten.” But in business today that’s just not true, because the goalposts keep moving. For organizations, doing what you’ve always done will only put you further behind.
Smart organizations know to invest in change management initiatives. But studies show that as many as 70 percent of all change initiatives fail. That’s unfortunate, because the fallout can set an organization back through lost productivity, lower morale, and wasted time and money. A big reason these initiatives fail is because — let’s face it — change is hard and people resist it. I like to say that the only person who likes change is a baby with a dirty diaper.
Announcing the change isn’t the same as implementing it. To engage people with the change and energize them throughout the process, leaders need to employ four strategies: Frame the change; build the change plan and infrastructure; strengthen the change; and entrust change leadership to others.
Let’s start with the first strategy: Frame the change. At the early stages in the change process, leaders must build the rationale for the change and create a picture of what the future holds.
The case for change describes what the change is, what’s wrong with the way things are now and what the organization hopes to accomplish. It is essentially a description of the gap between what is and what could be, which persuades people that the change is important and worthy of their commitment.
Creating a clear vision is essential for getting people on board with the change. A compelling vision helps people see where their role fits once the change has been initiated and implemented. Faced with change, people focus on what they are going to lose, not gain. An inspiring vision allows them to lower their personal concerns because they see themselves in the picture of the future and are excited about what’s ahead.
Now, strategy No. 2: Build the change plan and infrastructure. Research shows that people have predictable and sequential concerns with change. For a change initiative to succeed, leaders must include people in the planning process and spend time surfacing and addressing their concerns. It’s a good idea for leaders to help break down the walls between teams and personalities. They should keep an eye out for early adopters and advocates for the change and give them lots of support. They should also identify the resisters and court those who are undecided.
By involving others in the change planning process, leaders can tackle the barriers to successful implementation and use people’s input to overcome obstacles to change.
Up next: Strengthen the change. The key to success at this stage is the quick resolution of implementation problems. Leaders need to share data that show progress or prove that the change is working. They should collect success stories and share information about early wins. It’s very important that leaders walk the talk, modeling the mindset and behaviors expected of others. If someone is resisting the change, leaders must learn and resolve the reasons for their resistance. Everyone must be on board and held accountable for implementing the change.
Finally, entrust change leadership to others. Once the change has been successful, leaders should find ways to anchor the lessons learned into the organization. Change champions can promote the new status quo, assuring that the improvements continue to be adopted and sustained.
Change is inevitable — but failed change initiatives are not. By addressing people’s concerns and responding with strategies to increase their involvement and influence, organizations can succeed in their change initiatives. Using these four strategies, change leaders can spur their organizations into doing what they’ve never done before — and getting what they’ve always wanted.