Monday 20 February 2012

Taking the hard and scary out of change programs

It is widely accepted that only 1 in 3 organisational change programs succeed as this McKinsey article reiterates. I have worked with people on more than 100 change programs.
I have concluded that there are 13 key reasons for failure.
You can read them here.

The McKinsey article referred to suggests four basic conditions are necessary before employees will change their behaviour:
“a) a compelling story, because employees must see the point of the change and agree with it;
b) role modeling, because they must also see the CEO and colleagues they admire behaving in the new way;
c) reinforcing mechanisms, because systems, processes, and incentives must be in line with the new behavior; and
d) capability building, because employees must have the skills required to make the desired changes.”

In the two decades I have worked with passionate people to conceive, instigate and implement the crucial people elements of change programs there have been three critical success factors. While I agree with the four conditions in the McKinsey article, for me these three factors must precede them if desired change is actually going to happen.

The first critical factor is a deep understanding that all change is first and foremost about people and that personal and relationship change precede organisational change. Incredibly people and relationships are often overlooked and the powers that be focus on the new system, product or service or desired change and pay little attention to the people and relationship elements.

The second critical success factor is intention or purpose or reason for the change.

In the prologue to my Changing What’s Normal book I write:
“In an excellent book, a New York Times No. 1 bestseller Switch - how to change things when change is hard, the authors Chip and Dan Heath propose a great three-phase process for change: direct our rational mind, motivate our emotional side, and shape the path of change. Their book is about behaviour change that will rarely happen unless ...

Most training or change programs undertaken by millions of people every day fail to lead to behaviour change unless ...

The unless I refer to is: unless intention changes.

The Republican politicians in the United States of America’s parliament have an intention, it seems to me, to replace Barack Obama, a Democrat, with one of their own. This intention drives everything they do.

The members of the Liberal/Nationals coalition party in my home country, Australia, have the same intent. They want one of their own as our Prime Minister, and it drives everything they do.

This kind of intention has political parties, not in government, all over the world by the throat, and we are all choking as a result. This kind of intention means good, sound ideas, put forward by politicians in power, rarely see the light of day and compromise and inaction is the result.

Success depends on where intention is. Right now the political intentions of most are in the wrong place and, therefore, we are heading as a human race to the wrong place.”

If you are thinking about a change program and have the wrong intention or a perceived by your people as inappropriate or self-interest based intention, you will fail to create a compelling story and your program will fail.

The third critical success factor that precedes creating the conditions necessary to ensure success is water under the bridge/what has gone before/track record, often described in one word - culture.

In an excellent book UGRs - Cracking the corporate culture code, Steve Simpson introduces the powerful concept of unwritten ground rules (UGRs) and how they can dictate corporate culture. I personally have seen the unwritten rule in a myriad of organisations.

What stops the unwritten and usually negative from ruling, or better, creates a positive set of UGRs, is the foundational pillars of No BS relationships - authenticity, transparency, and clarity of leaders. These three lead to trust. I know that when leaders are trusted a change program is possible and we can move to co-creating the conditions. When leaders are not trusted change is definitely hard and scary, if not down right impossible.

Take the hard and scary out of change programs by ensuring you fully get these three critical factors that must precede any conceiving of a change program: it’s always about people and relationships, intention and trust.

Be the difference you want to see in the world.

Be the difference you want to see in the world.

I work with people who lead change to ensure results wanted and needed are actually achieved; unlike the 70% of change that fails to deliver.

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