8 Reasons Change Efforts Fail & How To Avoid Them

There are several common mistakes that companies often make when implementing change, says Dr. Robert Swaim, an expert on change management. Here's what they are.

According to Drucker, people really do not resist change. It is the way changes are introduced in organizations that they often object to. What then are some of the errors that are made when a change effort is introduced which creates resistance and hinders the success of their change efforts?

These errors, which are presented in an organizational change context include:

Error #1: Not Establishing a Great Enough Sense of Urgency: Opportunities are lost because the organization fails to establish a sense of urgency as to why the change is needed.

Error #2: Not Creating a Powerful Enough and Guiding Coalition: Organizations fail to assemble a group with enough power and prestige to lead the change effort and also may not have top management’s commitment and full support.

Error #3: Lacking a Vision: Organizations fail to create a Vision for the future to help direct the change effort – what will be different after the change? What will be preserved? What is the strategy and objectives for achieving the Vision?

Error #4: Under-Communicating the Vision: Organizations fail to communicate a Vision for the future. What the organization will look like as a result of the change? The Vision has to be presented as an opportunity, not a threat.

Error #5: Not Removing Obstacles to the New Vision: Systems, policies, or structures that seriously undermine the Vision are not dealt with and removed.

Error #6: Not Systematically Planning & Creating Short-Term Wins: Individuals are not recognized or rewarded for performance improvement as a result of their change efforts.

Error #7: Declaring Victory Too Soon: Organizations fail to monitor the progress of their change efforts and evaluate results. Often times, victory is declared when the change has not been totally implemented.

Error #8: Not Anchoring Changes in the Organization’s Culture: Organizations fail to have employees accept the change as the way things will be done from now on and as such, they revert to their old familiar ways of doing things.

Change and the Need for Continuity

According to Drucker, change should also be accompanied with continuity. Education and communications are extremely important relative to changes the organization plans to implement.

Part of these communications must include what is going right in order to reinforce morale, protect self worth, build creditability, and reduce potential resistance.

Also, in addition to describing the vision (what the organization will look like after the change), it is important to communicate what will be preserved.

Equally important, is communicating the relationship or linkage between the planned change and the overall direction of the organization. That the change is consistent with the organization’s mission, vision and values.

"When you introduce change, it’s very important to maintain continuity and the commitment to fundamental values, which don’t change." Peter F. Drucker

Drucker and What Organizations Should Not Change

There are a number of things according to Drucker that organizations should not change. These things are mainly in the human-behavioral area and include:

The Need for Recognition: Employees need to be recognized for their contribution. Although changes may be required in the organization, employees must be assured that they are doing some things "right" and that the changes being made are not as a result of, or a reflection of their performance.

The Need for Respect: Regardless of what changes may be required, individuals in the organization must continue to be treated with respect. One way of providing respect is to continually communicate why the change or changes are necessary.

The Need for Trust: Employees must continue to have trust in their management. One way of maintaining trust when change efforts take place is to communicate to employees what will be preserved and that the changes are consistent with the organization’s mission, objectives, vision and strategy.

The Need to Feel Productive: According to Abraham Maslow and his "Hierarchy of Needs Theory," people strive for self actualization, the need to be able to utilize their knowledge and skills in performing meaningful work.

Although changes may be taking place, there needs to be continuity with respect to people’s work. Changes which are being implemented must appear to be consistent with the direction and vision of the organization and individual contributions.

The Need to Grow: Organizations must continue to provide their managers and employees with an opportunity to learn and grow. Change can be a very positive opportunity to provide personal learning and growth opportunities.