It’s the beginning of a new year, so our minds predictably jump to making big changes. We’re all familiar with what happens with our personal New Year’s resolutions. That’s right. Most don’t stick.
The same can be said about workplace or organizational changes. Most of these well-intended efforts wither and disappear. According to Making Change Work (a worldwide survey by IBM of 1,500 executives and managers), only 41% of respondents said their change initiative fully succeeded. Other surveys put the failure rate between 50% and 70%.
Managing change is a tricky and complex business. In my client work, I continue to hear executives express their frustration at the internal resistance and other barriers that stall their favorite change projects. It seems broad employee ownership is the common missing ingredient, the one big step that many executives fail to take.
When executives describe how they began their change initiatives, they start with a small executive circle, which is fine, but they don’t expand the circle as planning progresses. This is where the seeds of organizational resistance get sown.
When employees sense that leadership is not opening up decision-making and sharing information on important organizational change, distrust, disengagement and ultimately resistance form ever more difficult barriers to overcome.
So what determines whether a change will stick or disintegrate? A recent McKinsey & Company survey of 900 companies and their executives boiled the recipe for success down to three ingredients:
Other factors contribute to successful change, including establishing a clear road map for action, consistently tracking progress against goals, and effectively pushing through unexpected bumps and wrong turns.
All these factors are important, but both the McKinsey and IBM reports place employee involvement at or near the top of the success factor list.
I hear executives lament that bringing more people into the loop adds more hoops and time to the process. That’s true. However, it also increases the likelihood of change sticking rather than landing in the pile of well-intended but failed efforts.