Change Management – Why the high failure rate?

70% of all change programs in business fail to achieve what they were designed to do. In some cases they cause complete business failure!

Change Management is the buzz word of business the world over.

Change may refer to a simple product change, a system change, a change in IT methodologies. Or it may be a company wide all encompassing clean sweep where the entire company is revitalized. This drastic step is usually taken when the company is on the verge of collapse, or when a new CEO comes in wanting to bring the business in line with his or her experience.

Being a Project Manager does not make you a good Change Manager. Being able to structure a Gantt or Pert Chart and rolling out the technical aspects of a change, without taking into account the intense reactivity of staff and management is almost certain to either create a business meltdown, of a change in function that does not endure.

It is absolutely critical that a Change Manager understands the subtleness of how different people think and feel and be able to integrate the varying values systems of the stakeholders with the desired outcome. Conflicts between management staff and between line staff must be dealt with and the desired objectives MUST be CLEARLY communicated to everyone involved in terms of what the participant is going to gain out the change.

Change will always create anxieties in the people involved. Often there is excitement from those who drive the change, but caution or resistance from those who perceives a potential threat. That threat can be from their perception of their ability to absorb the changes and learn new skills. A threat can also come from fear of job change or from the possibility of losing their job altogether. No matter where the threat comes from, it is a powerfully destabilizing force and has been known to destroy companies when poorly handled.

The stress that change generates can also have undesirable results from ill health or absenteeism in people who are already stressed and cannot cope with the extra loads a change program puts on them. When people feel high levels of stress, they either fall ill, or jump ship. Either way, this causes additional unwanted loads on management staff, distracting management from the task at hand and increasing the risk of failure of the project. Remember the old saying – “When you are up to your knees in alligators it’s hard to remember that the original exercise was to drain the swamp!”

This is why corporate change projects fail two out of every three times, with huge resultant cost in money and human misery. So if you are selecting a Change Manager, make sure he / she knows how to handle the human factor.

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