“It should really make you think twice…”
The many efforts on organisational change, combined with high failure rates (>70%*) and the newly coined popular disease “change fatigue” should make you – an executive – think twice about your next change project. But, do you really have a choice? The next change in the market place or a sub-par business unit performance is just around the corner, and an as-soon-as-possible response is a mere expectation.
However, why do organisational change efforts have such a poor track record?
Does organisational change have to be that hard? Right after 9/11 a team of psychologists did research in the US intelligence service*. Researching the most effective units they created a list of effectiveness determinants. The single strongest predictor of effectiveness was the amount of help people provided to one another…. the most effective units invested much more time and energy in coaching, teaching and consulting each other creating a ‘giver’ culture: simply help, share, offer mentoring, and make connections.
Research indicates change efforts fail because of two key reasons: poor communication and poor design*. The solution to this – you would think – is to communicate more and better, and to create a better change effort design, including all necessary departments or units and underlying processes. Why do organisational change efforts depend so much on informing people who do not yet have the information, and on including units who are not yet included?
For a better change process you could start with an organisational change-ability check that provides you with necessary information for a designer’s approach to organisational change. We called this process “Change Design Works,” because it is a change approach based on design thinking and it involves hands-on work.
In the change-ability check there is an item about whether your organisation’s vision and long-term goals inspire (mostly) clarity or confusion. When there is confusion, people don’t want to change. In a way this is a good thing, since they should not do so until it is clear why it is good and important for the organisation to change.
When, instead, there is clarity about your company’s intended future and the people have been involved in creating this perspective and are committed to this future, something interesting happens: everyone is pulled into the future rather than merely pushed towards it. Change, then, becomes as natural as taking an alternative route towards your holiday destination when you find there is a traffic jam on the road you initially choose.
Organisational change doesn’t have to be so hard.