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change initiatives

Think before you change: Why many change initiatives fail

Resistance is undoubtedly one of the biggest challenges when implementing change. But there are a whole host of reasons why change initiatives fail. By recognising the reasons, we can improve processes and work to overcome and even prevent them. First, we must understand what some of the most common failures are:

1.    Bad timing

Timing is key for change initiatives to succeed. From determining when to change, to when to propose change to stakeholders, it is paramount that you get it right out of the starting gates. A poorly timed proposal will not engage stakeholders and you may be met with opposition. Likewise, badly timing the introduction of change within your organisation will not only incur significant resistance, but also be detrimental to leaders’ reputations, damaging the faith and trust employees have in management.

However, in actual fact, there is rarely a bad time for business transformation. It is more about your change initiative being well thought-out. Being underprepared is what can have the biggest knock-on effect and result in change initiative failure. So when proposing change, ensure that you have determined your optimum timing. Are you responding to a crisis situation whereby fast action is key? Or is your change effort to accommodate projected change in the future, whereby you have more time to prepare? Supporting structures need to be in place and plans must be well-developed, as these factors will be pivotal in gaining stakeholder support and for onboarding employees.

2.    Misunderstanding the drivers for change

Radical shifts in strategy will feel much less radical if the drivers for change are clearly defined. And when onboarding staff and stakeholders is ‘make or break’ for organisational change, it’s vital to ensure they understand it upfront.

The better an employee understands the rationale, the more likely they are to support any change, and the less likely you are to experience resistance.

As well as this, managers must be sure that the drivers for change address the needs of frontline workers. All too often, change management efforts are initiated at leadership level with meagre insight to the problems employees are facing. The result? Change efforts which fight the smoke but not the flames! By talking to your teams, you can really get to know the catalysts for change, gain valuable understanding, and establish the right course of action for transformation.

3.    Poor, disjointed communication

Talking to your employees is seldom more important than when implementing change. Employees who fully understand the drivers for change are more likely to be onboard with the efforts, in turn minimising resistance. Actively listening to your teams will help you to establish the right course of action. Likewise, leaders must effectively communicate the change initiatives to them.

In order to achieve the support of your employees, it is paramount, as we have addressed, that change is well-thought-out and well-timed. Along with this, organisations must open up and share the challenges facing them. A workplace culture of transparency and openness is certain to benefit from the support of employees who truly grasp the reasoning for change.

Open lines of communication are advantageous throughout the change initiative too. Even supportive staff who share your vision will promptly lose motivation if communications dwindle. To remedy this, have an internal communications strategy in place in advance. Define how you are going to give progress updates - maybe through daily scrums - and recognise accomplishments and goals. Employees need to know that they are making progress, working towards that end goal, and also that they are appreciated. So celebrate successes, and keep contact consistent. Change efforts are unlikely to succeed with poor, disjointed communication.

4.    Inconsistency in processes

As well as consistency in communication, consistent processes can make a substantial difference to your change initiatives. Your approach to change has a significant impact on its success. And with a common set of tools, your team can more victoriously work towards the vision. Certifications such as APMG International Change Management can help you to achieve just that. Rolling out such training across your change team brings individuals together, speaking a common language, and provides change initiatives with consistent processes.

At the Foundation level, the International Change Management course teaches leaders how to implement and manage change effectively and how to develop strategies to help people through change. You will learn about the stakeholder engagement process and how to develop suitable communications strategies and plans, as well as how to build momentum for change and sustain it. Then, at the Practitioner level, the International Change Management course delves into establishing a clear framework of defined change roles, how to build an effective change team, and how leaders can support and sustain the team through the change process.

Change management training can help professionals to apply appropriate process frameworks and to optimally plan and understand organisational change. If you believe Change Management training could benefit you in your role, give you a common set of tools, and a consistent approach to managing change, then read more of the course information here. Alternatively, get in touch with our knowledgeable team who can offer guidance and discuss your unique requirements.