Stock photo

Change is inevitable for any organization. In today’s economy, the competitive environment is heating up and innovations are being introduced to different industries at an unprecedented rate. Basically, businesses are being faced with the choice to adapt or die.

However, many organizations struggle to manage change effectively. In fact, a survey conducted by OnPoint of 655 leaders from various organizations revealed that less than half (46%) thought that their organization was “successful at change management.”

In many change management initiatives, organizations all too frequently forget about a few critical elements of change management that, when ignored, can lead to increased costs, delays, or outright failure to implement the desired change. On average, results tend to drop off after just a month or two as change managers return to their normal duties and employees lose focus and enthusiasm. This is a phenomenon that OnPoint calls the “commitment dip.”

Five of the critical elements of change management that businesses may miss include:

1: Going Beyond Making the Business Case

Making a business case for change is a good starting point for any change initiative. It can help get buy-in from senior management and employees so there’s a stronger push for implementing the change at the start. It can also help people gain a clear understanding of what they need to achieve, why the change is necessary, and how to measure success before, during, and after the change.

However, while making a business case for change is important, many organizations forget that it’s equally necessary to maintain momentum for the change within the organization and preventing the commitment dip. This includes:

  • Being Forthright About the Change and its Impact. The majority of leaders surveyed by OnPoint have stated that open and honest communication from leaders makes change easier to implement and sustain.
  • Modeling Behaviors that Support the Change. Leadership in an organization needs to model the behaviors that support the change. If employees detect a double-standard regarding change implementation—that leaders are following a different set of rules—then the initiative will lose credibility and support.

Putting the change in front of employees at all times and maintaining enthusiasm is a crucial part of maintaining momentum for the change and ensuring that the initiative succeeds in the long term.

2: Prioritizing and Coordinating Change Across the Organization

Sometimes, organizations may roll out several changes in a short timeframe, having multiple departments or teams implementing different changes simultaneously.

When different groups roll out different changes, there are numerous opportunities for miscommunications and mistakes to occur. For example, different departments or business units could roll out their own change initiatives and each senior leader may think their change is the only one to contend with. However, as multiple changes roll out across the organization it can cause confusion about priorities and put a strain on resources when people have to support the implementation of all of the changes being rolled out simultaneously.

Creating priority lists for change initiatives and coordinating change efforts between groups is critical for making sure that everyone knows what is expected of them, which changes are the most important, and so that different departments are all on the same page regarding what changes are occurring and when.

3: Allocating Sufficient Resources

Many organizations drastically underestimate the amount of resources they need to allocate to their change initiative. Sometimes, this is because the organization puts the change on “automatic pilot,” treating the change as a “set it and forget it” initiative rather than something that will need continuous revising in response to changing circumstances.

When making plans, there are many assumptions that have to be made about what it will take to implement the change. These assumptions have to be based on what is known at the start—and no one has perfect knowledge or the ability to see the future.So, unforeseen problems do occur. As a result, many organizations find that the resources they initially allocated to the change initiative are no longer enough.

Actively monitoring the progress of a change initiative and allocating resources to handle disruptions can help smooth out the process of enacting change. In fact, 82% of people at top-performing organizations surveyed by OnPoint have stated that “the availability of adequate resources is a key element in successfully achieving change objectives.”

4: Being Realistic About Deadlines/Due Dates

Every change seems to be both urgent and important. As a result, one of the most common problems businesses have with change initiatives is that their schedules for enacting change are too aggressive. Either the change is too big or there aren’t enough resources to enact the change in the timeframe allowed.

Over-optimistic deadlines can cause employees and managers at all levels to disengage from the initiative when they realize that the deadline is effectively impossible to meet. Additionally, unrealistic timelines can lead to under-allocating resources. This can derail the initiative before it can gain momentum.

Keeping realistic deadlines for key milestones helps to make team members more positive about their ability to enact the change. Also, it can help to prevent employees from becoming overloaded as they try to stack change management duties on top of their normal responsibilities by spacing these duties out over a larger span of time.

5: Focusing On Behaviors that Need to Change—Not Just Change Goals

Over time, employees (and even leaders) may reevaluate their commitment to the change—falling back on old behaviors and habits because they’re “easier.” Also, employees and leaders may have different interpretations of how to best achieve a change goal. Consequently, there may be inconsistent behaviors across the organization.

Simply communicating change objectives is not enough to earn continued commitment to the change. To get everyone doing things and thinking in the same new way, organizations have to focus on the behavior that needs to be changed—not just the goal or goals to be achieved. Employees may be able to reach some goals without changing the way they work or interact with their colleagues.

Focusing on changing employee behaviors rather than on change goals helps to make the changes a matter of habit. This, in turn, helps to make employees less likely to fall back on old habits from before the change initiative began.

These five critical elements of change management are integral to a successful change initiative. However, all too many businesses overlook them—to the detriment of the implementation of their change strategies.

Change management isn’t easy. There are a lot of moving parts to monitor and challenges to overcome. But, you don’t have to do it on your own. OnPoint Consulting has years of experience in helping businesses successfully prepare for and manage change. For more information about managing change more effectively, contact us as soon as possible!