NUGGET : Treat Change Management as Risk Mitigation.


Most strategies and plans require many changes in how your enterprise works. For this reason, and because the enterprise is a social as well as a technical entity, changes contain major inherent risks of failure. Change management, if it is put on the table at all, often is an add-on in the form of communication or training programs meant to manage peoples’ resistance or to convince them to get on board.

The result? We hear these statistics over and over again: 60-70% failure of change initiatives – in the form of cost overruns, quality problems, continually revised schedules, and abandoned programs. Many changes meant to be transformational often are coopted into existing practices or abandoned entirely. Goals that were once challenging and inspiring erode to shadows of themselves.

If we considered the potential for failure or the actual costs of implementation, we might decide that some changes are actually not worth pursuing. But this realization should happen before a change is launched, not after massive investments show it is not viable or adequately value adding.

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t be bold, just that when we view a new strategy or program — from its inception — as a change, we think about it differently. We also more realistically evaluate the investment that the change will require. I often use the analogy of turning water to steam to illustrate this point. If we want the water to boil, we have to apply enough heat. Turning the stove dial to 2 won’t do it. If we aren’t willing to put in the energy that the change requires, we will only waste resources and create a lot of frustration that will make future changes even more difficult.

Any complex change must be set up FROM THE BEGINNING as a change. This affects who is involved, how the project/program/strategy is conceptualized and designed, and how much flex, learning, and extra resource will be required.

Leaders are getting better at articulating strategic goals, but often forget that targeting an accomplishment is not the same as doing it. And the fact that there are sophisticated project plans and increasing amounts of data and analytics only perpetuates the myth that it is possible to easily and rationally map and implement the vision so succinctly depicted in Power Point slides.

60-70% failure in change is simply not acceptable. It’s time to see change as a key dynamic that permeates everything involved in conceptualizing and implementing strategies, programs, projects. It’s time to treat change management as the RISK MITIGATION process and core organization capability that it really is and must be.

Pat McLagan has facilitated planning sessions, coached internal change leaders, trained and supported executives and other leaders, and helped strategize changes across industries for over 3 decades.

NUGGET : Treat Change Management as Risk Mitigation

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