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I know, just what you needed - another infographic about change management failure!

But this one caught my eye because it's both HR-specific and the result of interviews with actual senior HR leaders.  And while I don't always agree with the HR department, I do agree with the experts in this case about 'result-oriented psychological facilitation'.  As I've said before, you can be focused on the ROI of change and still have room to address the psychological effects of change on employees.  In fact, when you don't address the psychological effects, you'll quickly find that your change-related ROI goes straight out the window.

So I think this infographic is worth at least a skim.

change management in HR


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I suppose that every profession has its (negative) stereotypes, but some days it seems like change management has more than others.  Maybe it's because change management often sits next to OD (organizational development), which tends to sit next to HR...and everyone loves to make fun of HR, even when they're simultaneously saying that people are their mosst important asset.

cliches in change management

Whatever the reason, I found myself thinking about these stereotypes and cliches today, and how I address them.  Maybe you'll find my responses helpful the next time you're trapped in a boardroom watching a PowerPoint presentation littered with statements that sound good but actually aren't helpful at all.

1.  "If you're not riding the wave of change, you'll find yourself underneath it."

I guess this is supposed to conjure images of a surfer, skimming expertly atop the swell, while unsuspecting swimmers are pulled to their deaths by the undertow.  But it's good to remember that waves are transitory, and in fact can be generated in enclosed bodies of water that go nowhere.  So - to continue the metaphor - you may be expending an awful lot of energy to 'ride' something that isn't going to be there tomorrow anyway.  A better strategy might be to become a stronger swimmer.

2.  "We need to see some quick wins in order to get buy-in."

All I have to say about this one is:  If you didn't get buy-in before you started, a few quick wins aren't going to help you.  This says to me that you haven't helped anyone, senior management or employees, understand the goals and rewards.  Quick wins won't change this - they'll only leave you on a path you can't sustain.  If you have to constantly demonstrate 'quick wins' to keep people on your side, you aren't set up for success.

3.  "Let's not get trapped in the past."

Yes, change is about moving forward.  The problem is that "Let's not get trapped in the past" can often become "Let's throw the baby out with the bathwater", which is not productive.  Examining your organizational history with an eye to keeping the good stuff and changing the bad is a more effective foundation for meaningful change.

4.  "We need to get all our ducks in a row."

There's a big difference between 'taking the time to get it right' and 'putting the launch date off for another 6 weeks because Bob from Accounting can't be bothered to come to meetings and his team still hasn't completed their deliverables.'  Great change management sometimes requires decisive action - like telling Bob that whether his ducks are coming or not, everyone else is off to the pond.

5.  "This organization is already changing - every single day!"

This cliche is particularly dangerous, because it's both completely true and completely false at the same time.  No organization is completely static:  Market conditions fluctuate, employees join and leave, clients buy more or less - so yes, the organization is changing on a day-to-day basis.  But in many fundamental ways it's not changing at all.  Overall, it's still selling the same products, using the same computers, operating from a stable location, etc.  Not all change is created equal.  You may be able to change the brand of coffee in the staff room without too much upheaval, for example, but replacing the coffee with tea is likely to be significantly more problematic.  And that's just coffee, not a major process shift.

6.  "Everyone around here is used to change because we change a lot."

If you think your employees are used to change because you are constantly changing their world, you're wrong.  They're tired.  They are bone tired.  And they aren't any better at change but they've figured out it doesn't matter, because you change so often they know nothing you mandate will be around for very long.  This doesn't bode well for the overall health of the business, so you might want to get your money up-front.  

No doubt there will be a Part II to this list of cliches, because I know there are many.

What change management cliches get your eyes rolling?

(As always, find me on Twitter @BethBanksCohn.)






Published in News

Scarcely a day goes by that I don't read another article or blog about why a change management initiative has been a desperate failure, or went off the rails, or got hijacked and never lived up to its potential.  That's fine, as far as it goes - it's good to understand why things go wrong - but I've been involved with all kinds of highly successful change management initiatives and I'm here to tell you that, despite what you may read, failure is not inevitable.

change management success

In fact, I think it might be more helpful to ask ourselves why change efforts succeed:  What factors are required for change initiatives to achieve the results they set out to achieve?

In my 20+ yeas of change management experience, I've learned that the answers to "Why does change succeed?" are the following:

1.  Provide clear reasons for change

There's nothing more guaranteed to get employees to dig their heels in that to announce wholesale changes without explanation, reason or context. People don't like to be 'bossed' around or treated like children.  So take the time to explain why the change is taking place:  Maybe it's for competitive advantage, maybe it's because the marketplace has changed, maybe it's because the shareholders are getting restive.  As long as the reasons are rational and make basic sense, communicating them will make the change process go much more smoothly.

2.  Strive for engagement

Successful change doesn't happen when a small team of senior leaders drags the rest of the organization kicking and screaming into the new world.  Successful change requires everyone in the organization to be engaged in the process and the results.  By providing clear reasons for the change, you've already taken the first step to engaging your workforce; ensuring that they continue to be engaged throughout the process will turn your group into a team which is striving for the same goal.

3.  Make change make sense

Moving your head office 50 miles from one city to another take advantage of improved transportation, raw materials and tax breaks may make perfect sense in the boardroom when the decision is made.  But it won't make sense to the 2500 workers who are about to be displaced unless you can explain to them what this change will mean for the organization.  Does it mean you'll stand a better chance of surviving a difficult economic climate in the next few years? Does it mean you'll be able to reduce the prices for your product and therefore grow the company, with increased opportunity for everyone?  If you don't take the time to explain, all you'll end up with is a resentful workforce.

4.  Communicate!  

Ever notice how sports coaches are always talking to their players?  They talk to them before the game, during the game, after the game - they're constantly communicating instructions, feedback, motivation and strategy.  The same principle is true for change initiatives:  Change will be more successful when communication is continual and consistent.

5.  Stay positive

A few weeks ago, we talked about how a positive culture means a positive bottom line.  A positive environment - leaders who are enthusiastic about change, cultivating an attitude of resiliency and adaptability when it comes to change - will go a long way to ensuring that the team can stay focused on the change and not get sidetracked by resistance or delays to address trumped-up obstacles.

It's just possible that by focusing on the ways in which change succeeds - and spending a little less time on why it fails - the prospect of change may not seem quite so daunting.



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Beth Banks Cohn, PhD, founder and president of ADRA Change Architects, is dedicated to helping you and your organization reach your full business potential…
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