Head of Inclusion Qualifications and Chartered Management
Institute Programme Director, Inclusive Employers
Between 13% and 43% of IT change programmes fail, according to Standish Group’s CHAOS Report. Shockingly, IT changes are generally more successful than other types.
The sad reality is many organisations move from one failed change to the next, chasing the efficiency improvements or transformation promised. It’s no wonder staff are pushing back.
Barriers to transformation success
The usual suspects lowering the likelihood of success include market changes, poor analysis of the risks, overstating potential or lack of resources allocated. Yet, one consistent factor exists across nearly every failed change programme: lack of focus on the human aspect of change as a core dependency.
‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast,’ a quote famously attributed to Peter Drucker, considered by many to be the father of modern management theory. It means if you fail to adequately plan for, engage and manage the human aspects of an organisation, the best strategy or change plan is likely to fail.
Challenge of inspiring change in people
New staff are more open to how you want things done. Once work habits are formed, inspiring change is difficult. A quirk of human nature — once there is a ‘way of doing it,’ change will likely meet resistance. Most business change requires people to do something differently. Given most change programmes fail to address this adequately, the low success rates are understandable but not unavoidable.
Listen to those doing the work, and use that alongside
business insights to shape what needs to change.
Better change starts with people
Most people happily share their opinions. Listen to those doing the work, and use that alongside business insights to shape what needs to change. Listening to people first also makes them more open to change. Consider the impact on different groups and make a plan. McKinsey’s influence model tells us the four things people need for change.
- Why – A compelling reason that speaks to their motivations.
- Skills – Can they do what is being asked?
- Role modelling – Can they see others making the change?
- Consequences – What happens if you do? What happens if you don’t?
Project management vs. change management
Project management speaks a language most decision-makers understand. Change management uses different skills and strengths. However, like anything that centres people, it can be seen by traditionalists as ‘soft and fluffy.’ I would argue that managing and mitigating the biggest risk is anything but fluffy.