Businesses can be wildly successful at change – exponential results could become achievable consistently. Greater profitability, growth in market share, improved customer satisfaction, engaged employees, stakeholder commitment and product innovation all become possible once potential is tapped and actualised. Unfortunately change success statistics suggest otherwise – 60% – 70% of all change efforts fail to deliver their intended outcomes (IBM and many other studies). Dean and Linda Anderson (Beyond Change Management) suggest that poor change leadership is the primary cause of failed change processes and note ten common mistakes made in leading transformation, viz.:

  1. Relevance and Meaning – not overtly linking the change effort to the market and business strategy to create clarity in the minds of stakeholders
  2. Change Governance – not providing clear change leadership roles, structure and decision-making and how the change effort will interface with operations
  3. Strategic Discipline for Change – not providing a strategic discipline for how to lead change across the organisation – no enterprise change agenda, no common change methodology and inadequate infrastructure to execute change successfully
  4. Misdiagnosing Scope – either in magnitude or by initiating only technological or organisational initiatives and neglecting the cultural, mind-set and behavioural requirements
  5. Initiative Alignment and Integration – running the change through multiple separate or competing initiatives rather than aligning all initiatives as one unified effort and ensuring the integration of plans, resources and pace
  6. Capacity – not creating adequate capacity – setting unrealistic, crisis-producing timeframes and then laying the change on top of peoples’ already excessive workloads
  7. Culture – not adequately addressing the organisation’s culture as a major force directly influencing the success of the change
  8. Leadership Modelling – not being willing to change their mind-sets, behaviour or style to overtly model the change that they are asking of the organisation
  9. Human Dynamics – not adequately or proactively attending to the emotional side of change, not designing actions to minimise negative emotional reactions and not attending to them in constructive ways once they occur
  10. Engagement and Communications – not adequately engaging with and communicating to stakeholders, especially early in the change process, relying too heavily on one-way top-down communication, engaging stakeholders only after the design is complete

In order to overcome these common mistakes in change initiatives, business leaders need to give comprehensive attention, focus and energy to the following:

  1. The Parameters of the Change – the scope and organisational focus of the change structure, strategy, culture, business process, product line-up, technology or service. The same need to be “workshopped”, clearly defined and communicated throughout the entire organisation, linking clearly to intended strategic outcomes.
  2. The People in the Change – leading the human dynamics of change: peoples’ mind-sets, commitment, emotional fears and disposition, behaviour, engagement levels, quality of relationships, politics and cultural dynamics impacting the change.
  3. The Process of the Change – the planning, design and implementation of the change. This includes adjusting to the way it unfolds, project management, governance, fulfilling an integration strategy and course corrections.

Business leadership can overcome the common mistakes made in change initiatives by focusing on the parameters, people and processes of the intended change. People and process dynamics are highly interdependent – change leaders thus need to engage content experts, other stakeholders and all employees to ensure the success of the change effort.

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