Opinion | Are you sabotaging your change initiative? | Lenore Miller

WILD CARD: The human element
WILD CARD: The human element

When it comes to making changes in your business or organisation, no matter how large or small, the ‘wild card’ element is people. We’re all aware that the success of organisational change rests on our people's ability and willingness to adopt the desired change.

But it is often leaders, not employees, who fail the change process. The people driving change need to take a more hands-on role in implementing it from the top down.

Sadly, many organisations focus on project management and technical aspects of change such as the new software, the new sales process and work redesign. The human element of change is left until the last minute or ignored altogether.  This is a recipe for disaster as the change cannot be successful without the support of those using the new software, following the new process or coping and adapting to the workforce redesign.

What can you do about it?

A key factor in a successful change initiative is active and visible executive sponsorship. Employees at all levels want to hear about the changes, why they’re necessary and the risk of not changing from their executive leaders. It’s extremely important for the executive leadership team of your organisation to be on board and leading the change.

Spending time to get this right will have a significant and positive impact on your change initiative and provide enhanced ROI. The latest Prosci bi-annual benchmarking study found the greatest contributor to the success of change management initiatives was active and visible executive sponsorship. This has consistently been number one since their research began in 1998.

Whilst employees want to hear about the ‘what’s in it for the organisation’ (WIIFO) to change from the executive leadership, they want to hear about what’s in it for them (WIIFM) from their line manager. Even if there are significant unknowns it’s better to have open conversations about this rather than pretend nothing is happening.

Sponsorship at all levels, executive through to front-line management, needs to be active and visible, and the communication needs to be frequent, open and as transparent as is possible. That may mean saying, ‘I’m sorry I don’t have an answer for that right now’. A one-off announcement is never enough.

Here’s the three key things leaders need to do to help ensure change management success.

1.       Participate visibly throughout the project by supporting the team and championing the change.

2.       Communicate the change to impacted groups, don’t just leave it to the project team. Clearly articulate WIIFO and WIIFM and be prepared to work with resistant groups.

3.       Direct and equip your management team to also walk the talk of change across the organisation in a unified way.

Lenore Miller is a Hunter-based Prosci® certified change management practitioner and an employee engagement and capability expert lenoremiller.com