The first step to building better change management plans is in setting the foundation.
It seems so obvious. Yet, with organizational change projects failing as often as they do, one wonders if organizations are missing this vital area.
Beer & Nohria (2000) as cited in Ján & Veronika (2017) estimate approximately 70% of all change efforts to result in failure. Decker et al. (2012) also cited in Ján & Veronika (2017) place the number even higher, estimating that in excess of 90% of change efforts are unsuccessful.
These figures stem from research published in the Journal of Competitiveness.
We know organizations thrive on competition, seeking to outdo rivals by having the best sales, profits, and margins, by having the best NPS scores and customer reviews, or by attracting, and keeping, the best talent.
So, with this battle to constantly be the best, why do so many come up short so often?
In each of these competitive areas, there's an element of speed. Nearly everyone wants to be first to market, first to adopt the latest technologies, or first to capture the attention of prospective customers and the general public.
Every once in a while you win. You walk away with the golden ticket. The attention doesn't last, and the metrics aren't sustainable.
In the case of change management project success, speed is not your ally.
In my experience, most change efforts fail because of the rush to move to implementation without first developing the foundation for the change management plan.
If you've heard this, or have said it yourself before, the first thing to do here is ask yourself who "we" is.
If "we" is a board of directors, the CEO, or select members of an executive team, it may be true that, on paper, you've organized a well-informed plan.
However, you've probably felt resistance from different areas of the company once the intended changes and change plans have been announced.
Some middle managers and employees will support it right away, whether they believe in the plan or not. Others will nod their heads in agreement, while muttering their displeasure in private conversations. And, still others will aim to sabotage the change at every chance they get.
While crisis situations may call for the speed and decisiveness of a top-down approach, Pardó del Val & Martínez Fuentes (2003) as cited in Heyden et al. (2017) describe the employee disengagement and mistrust that results from this sort of change initiation in non-emergency situations.
Before working with organizations, we find it important that they ask themselves these questions.
Each of these are critical to consider before starting any new change management plans or process. And, each leads to several more follow-up questions that can help draw a more clear roadmap to change success for your organization.
Most organizational leaders like to think that the answer is yes. Often, a closer look at employee surveys can paint a different, and less positive, picture.
Before diving into the responses to survey questions, there's another question to ask:
What percentage of employees responded to the survey?
✅ If more than half respond, you may have sufficient data with which to begin identifying items of interest.
❌ If less than that respond:
Based on the responses, you may also discover:
👉 Try creating a plan without understanding the pulse of the organization, and it's easy to see why most change efforts fail to gain the necessary employee support to succeed.
The results of an employee engagement survey, combined with stakeholder mapping and analysis, can tell you which employees are ready to support change and which are likely to resist.
You'll even find out how they're likely to go about doing so.
How does this help you?
It's a bit like the preparation that goes into deciding the game plan for sporting events.
When coaches know which of their players are active, healthy, and can be put into the game day lineup, and they understand their specialties and idiosyncrasies, they're better able to develop a vision and strategy, communicate it to the team members, receive feedback, make adjustments, and get everyone moving in the same direction, with the same goal in mind.
In developing organizational change management plans, you should be doing the same.
You can leave the pads and helmets at home, yet you'll want the information from stakeholder analysis so you can be proactive in your communication with key team members.
Now that you know how people will react to change, it's best to get them involved.
You've seen what happens when top-down approaches are forced.
They're resisted by employees who feel as though:
To break this pattern of belief and experience, the participation of the many is needed.
Kotter (2007) describes this participation as being part of the guiding coalition, often beginning with 2-5 people in the first year, yet growing to be between 20-50 people of various roles, titles, seniority, and function, and including members inside and outside of the executive team.
The presence of diversity and the inclusivity witnessed in the valuing of new voices and fresh perspectives can enhance the feelings of belonging among stakeholders, guiding your organization to improved strategy development, decision-making, and communication.
Too long, didn't read? Here are the key points:
Here's one more important item. Be Patient. Change is not instant. In many cases, change projects can extend over several years. There's processes to support that experience, too.
If reading this article has you wondering whether your employees are for or against change, feel like they can grow in your organization, if they're planning their exits, and how you can make a difference, we can help.
Our Inevitabl Assessive: Change Management Audit is where organizations like yours begin to:
It's our passion to teach these principles of change management and to facilitate meaningful and sustainable change with our clients.
This section of the site is an excellent primer for insight on methodologies, tools, and resources that can support successful change efforts.
To continue your learning:
David Bohmiller, MBA, MS (he/him/his)
Founder, CEO and Consulting Executive
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Heyden, M. L. M., Fourné, S. P. L., Koene, B. A. S., Werkman, R., & Ansari, S. (Shaz). (2017). Rethinking "Top-Down" and "Bottom-Up" Roles of Top and Middle Managers in Organizational Change: Implications for Employee Support. Journal of Management Studies (John Wiley & Sons, Inc.), 54(7), 961-985. https://doi-org.ezproxy.snhu.edu/10.1111/joms.12258
Ján, D. & Veronika, T. (2017). Examination of Factors Affecting the Implementation of Organizational Changes. Journal of Competitiveness, 9(4), 5-18. https://doi-org.ezproxy.snhu.edu/10.7441/joc.2017.04.01
Kotter, J. P. (2007). Leading Change: Why Transformation Efforts Fail. Harvard Business Review, 85(1).