Letting your employees become proud of every change!

organizational change

As a recognized practice, change management has been in existence for almost 50 years (maybe more). However, despite the amount of money invested by organizations in training, tools and books, we continue to get very constant and bad statistics about failures rates. Maybe you are familiar with the very famous 60%-70% of failures for organizational change projects. As I remember a few reports from the 1970’s until now, we didn’t progress very much, and sometimes, even reported a regression.

Some of the statistics I found are dated between 2010 and 2015. Here are few of facts that today we are able to see in organizations:

  • The United States economy loses $50-$150 billion per year due to failed IT projects.(Source: Gallup Business Review)
  • One in six IT projects have an average cost overrun of 200% and a schedule overrun of 70%.(Source: Harvard Business Review)
  • 75% of business and IT executives anticipate their software projects will fail.(Source: Geneca)
  • 50% of all Project Management Offices (PMOs) close within just three years. (Source:KeyedIN)
  • Less than a third of all projects were successfully completed on time and on budget over the past year. (Source:Standish Group)

On the other hand, we have change management specialists and their methodologies. Almost every big consulting company has their own methodology (a lot of the time, it is a combination of the most popular ones). Here some examples:

  • McKinsey 7-S Model
  • Boston Consulting Group (BCG) Change Delta

To complete the list of change management methodologies, I did this list surfing a little bit in Google:

  1. ADKAR Model for Change Management;
  2. John Kotter Eight Step Model for Change;
  3. Prosci Enterprise Change Management;
  4. Prosci Change Management Levers;
  5. AIM (Accelerated Implementation Methodology);
  6. Beckhard and Harris Change Management Process;
  7. Bridges Leading Transition Model for Change;
  8. The Change Leader’s Roadmap;
  9. General Electric Change Acceleration Process (CAP);
  10. Kubler Ross Change Curve Model;
  11. Kurt Lewin Three Stage Change Methodology;
  12. LaMarsh Managed Change™ Model;
  13. People Centered Implementation (PCI) Model;
  14. Viral Change Roadmap.

1 I really don’t know all of them, I am lucky that I learned and used #1, #2 and #10, and I listen a bit from few ones that is all.
2 For sure this is not a final list; there are more tools and methodologies out there.

Now, we have a bunch of methodologies to address organizational change created in the last 50 years; however, we could not improve a lot on the organizational change statistics about failure. I am not in favor or against any methodology; as with any tool, you need to use it depending on the situation, the context, your experience, and your personality. I learned the ADKAR and Kotter methodology, and so far, when I need them, both of them have worked fine. I didn’t spend any more additional time trying to learn every single methodology (maybe in my next life I will take some time to learn a few more). Nice, now we have the tools; what about the statistics? Why can’t we drastically change them?

Should we wait for a new tool to improve our statistics?

If you have enough resources as an organization to survive 5, 10, or 15 more years until the new tool to address organizational change is born (who knows when), you could wait; in the end, the most important thing is that you make a decision, and if that is your decision, then good for you. Unfortunately, most organizations today are not able to wait that long, they need to act now. They need to address change in a different way. Are tools or methodologies important in this change? The answer is yes, both are important to keep in mind, but you must also change in the way you approach organizational change. Let’s think about tools and methodologies as a Ferrari; they will be useless for you if you don’t know how to drive this powerful car (change). Is it clear?

A new approach to address organizational change

Let me share a few simple things that you could start to do alone for your next organizational change:

  1. If you are at the executive level, you need to do your homework, and answer the question “why does the organization need to make this change” and “who will be affected”. Try to do this with your boss, and somebody else at your same level in the organization.
  2. When you get the “why” and “who”, put all the affected employees in one room, and explain the “why”. Don’t be afraid to put 50 or 60 employees in one room (or even the full organization). When you finish with the “why”, you need to stop, and listen to what those smart employees, that you are paying every month, have to say. Answer questions, and be ready to be challenged. When you and your employees have finished talking, and the “why” is clear, you need to ask a magic question: “What do we have to do now to address this change?” Don’t be surprised when employees start to propose things, initiatives, actions, and more. You should be writing notes on the whiteboard, or on big post-its.
  3. When the employees are finished with the ideas/initiatives and actions, you should start to prioritize them, and take the first 10 or 20 items, and drop others for the moment. Focus on the first 10 or 20 most important and select the ‘change champion’ and help him/her to make a plan of actions, check points, and communications.
  4. Sit-down, relax, wait for the next check point, and let your people lead the change. Don’t expect miracles the first time you try this, and be ready to help them, to coach them, and guide them in their organizational change.

Repeat steps 1 to 4 for every single change, and you will be surprised by the amount of energy, engagement, and commitment you are able to create with those 4 steps to address change.

What about the methodologies or tools?

People will need them in step 3, maybe in step 2 also. Be sure they have all the tools to be successful.

What about the consulting company (or team) to help us on that?

Do you really need a bunch of consultants in your organization for 6/9/12/18/24 months to manage the change? The answer is no, you don’t need a consulting company (or person) in the way you did it before. You must manage the change with internal employees; they are smart, they know the business, they want to learn, and they want to teach. Take advantage of that.

If you checked our website, and you didn’t believe us when we said that we are executing our consulting business in a totally different way, ok, here is the proof. You need consulting help in step #2, and step #4. What does that mean for you? You will need some help to create a safe environment to let the employees take responsibility and ownership. An external facilitator can help a lot here. The facilitator should be from outside of your organization and will probably be on your premises for 4 weeks or less, and he/she could come back for check point meetings or to coach your champions (or coach you) once or twice a month, or less, or return at a schedule determined by you.

Why consultants are a bad idea to manage change in your organization?

First of all, I am a consultant, and I only want to say that I love working with organizations and to help them to grow, but I don’t like to live in your organization for few reasons:

  • As a consultant, I am not adding value with my presence. All of my work depends on somebody else, and when organizations are changing, they are also trying to make money. It is not ethical to spend months, and months in an organization, take their money, and do something that somebody from the inside could do better than a consultant.
  • Almost 40% of the time, change failures are associated to people resistance. Do you know why they resist? Check this situation: John and Eli have worked in your organization for 5 years, they have some good ideas to be more profitable, but you are so focused on what the consultants say that you are not listening to them. Of course, as consultants, sometimes, we are better at selling ideas than your employees. So, you contract “xyz consultation” to deploy what John and Eli tried to sell you in the last 12 months. Now, somebody from the outside will start to check with your employees, they will tell them how fantastic they are, and how great they will be after the change, blah, blah… In the end, the consultant team will be in your organization for 3/6/12 months to deploy the change, they will get 3 or 4 times what your employees get, and they come with exactly the same idea your employees had before, but you didn’t listen, or they didn’t sell it well. Now, with that situation in mind, think about John and Eli’s feelings, emotions and attitude against the change. Do you understand why I say consultants should not manage the change at all? I hope yes, because I can talk for hours about this. You only need to think of all those emotions, feelings, and the influence power John and Eli could have. In the end you will see why you need to avoid consultants to manage organizational change. Please don’t think that John and Eli are bad employees, this is not the point at all, they are HUMANS, and WE are wired like that. I am sure that you would react in a very similar way if you felt the same feelings and emotions.
  • The power of a consultant is their influence, and their coaching and mentoring skills. All of those things are lost if the consultant becomes more like an employee. It is what normally happens after 1 or 2 months working 40 hours per week in any organization.
  • I fully believe that people in organizations are really smart, and I work hard to get the best of them to create a great internal change culture, full engagement, commitment, successful changes, and happiness.

The key to this approach

People, people, and people. This is the key. If you have employees, you must educate them, let them learn, teach, and share experiences. You will start to notice the difference very quickly. So far, the only way I know to get successful organizational change is when internal people take responsibility and ownership. With the 4 steps above, you are working on that from step 1.

This post was originally published at ZettaGo Blog. You could find a French version of this here.

Thank you,
Omar Bermudez
Your People Wiz, Change Artist, and Creator of Happiness.

About the author

Omar is an agile practitioner and lover. Certified Scrum master. Agile Coach & Agile Leader. He believes it is important to continually be learning and growing. His dream is to be a lifelong learner; growing each day. He is also passionate about leadership development and seeing people reach their full potential. He is also a good husband & father (his wife says that time to times). He has a wonderful wife and 2 fantastic kids. In his free time, if he does not have any plan ahead, he tries to apply agile methodologies at the family level :). He enjoys a lot to travel with his family and discovers new places for them.