Markets are commoditising and consolidating. There are new laws on their way. Brexit is getting nearer. Consumer trends are changing in the blink of an eye. Emerging global markets are being created daily. Successful leaders see these changes.
In fact the best leaders not only have a viewpoint about how to respond to these changes, but they also know what it will take organisationally to implement those changes. Despite such insights about the need for change, research shows that at least 50% of companies are not ready to change.
Working with companies and business leaders in search of necessary change reveal several patterns of why their efforts fail:
Lack of clarity about success
An unclear vision for the changes, or the lack of strategic clarity and the way proposed changes will enable the strategy ultimately. These often undermine the effort to actually change.
Mismatch between challenge and approach
Leaders underestimate how ambitious the changes to which they are aspiring are. The reverse is also common: over engineering the approach to incremental business changes.
Overestimating the amount of leadership alignment that exists and not developing skills for alignment at multiple levels in a company will ensure an understanding gap between those ‘in the know’ and the rest of the company.
Fragmented approach to change
Leaders move toward the levers most common to the company and familiar to their leadership. For example, the finance guy ensures change through financial metrics.. Change that doesn’t take into account the entire system and integrate all parts of the business ends up creating competing change resources.
Lack of Focus
Change is exhausting. Often companies focus on long-term outcomes and spend minimal attention on transition metrics that track the progress of change, highlight early wins and build momentum, or get change back on track before the effort completely derails.
Leaders who lack the commitment and/or skill needed to lead, model, and implement the change will inevitably hinder the ability to realise results.
You have most likely experienced one or more failed change initiatives in your career. If I asked you to reflect on those experiences, you would invariably be able to point to one or more of the above causes that undermined change. Yet these barriers to change can be seen and managed long before they affect the business results your changes intend to make.
With current uncertainty, you will undoubtedly participate in or lead a change initiative. When determining how ready your company is for change, make sure you do three things.
- Align on the case for change
Before you, or other leaders involved, can determine if your company is ready for change, make sure all understand and are committed to the same changes.
- Get reliable data about the buy-in for and impact of change.
Use an approach that captures input from all the leaders the change will impact. Ensure findings will highlight specific challenges or obstacles and ideas for how to overcome them.
The depth of how you understand change challenges will be the extent to which you create a sufficient plan for a successful change.
- Create a robust change plan.
Change efforts fail during implementation; success is predicated on your plan. Your plan must include all the work required to ensure specific outcomes connected to the change. Timelines and measures associated with the work will help keep your change on track. Know the obstacles you face and plan to overcome them.