The Biggest Mistakes in Change Management

Don’t make these mistakes when your managing change.

 Change is hard. Here are some things to avoid that can help make it easier.

Change is hard. Here are some things to avoid that can help make it easier.

I don’t care how much your business needs to change. I don’t care how much you want to change it. It won’t change, and you can’t change it, without first understanding the importance of people.

Forgetting that organizations don’t change. People do.

It’s your job to share your vision and show them it’s OK to change. If the staff doesn’t trust the leaders and share the vision, they won’t change no matter how brilliant the idea.

Not understanding that different people react differently to change

It’s not one size fits all. You need to adapt your style to fit the people you’re trying to get to change. This is hard for a lot of managers who want things “done my way.” It’s easier for leaders who realize it’s more about end result and repetition of success than about doing it a certain way.

HBR’s 10 Must Reads on Change Management (including featured article “Leading Change,” by John P. Kotter)

By Harvard Business Review, John P. Kotter, W. Chan Kim, Renée A. Mauborgne

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Some people are “change adept” while others fight it. Factors determining which can change successfully:

  • Confidence — they know how good they are
  • Challenge — they like it and see positives
  • Coping — it’s what needs to be done
  • Counterbalance — have a life!
  • Creativity — Curious, Creative, Innovative

Treating transformation as an event rather than a mental, physical, and emotional process

There’s a whole range of emotions people feel and stages they have to go through. The deeper the fundamental change, the harder it can be. You know the stages: Denial, Negativity, Choice, Tentative Acceptance, Commitment.

Either facilitate it or ignore it and face the consequences.

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Recently a company that I poured six years of my life into was sold. We all had worked so hard to get it to where it was. It was a personal commitment that went far beyond what the job entailed. Even though it was the right business decision to sell, we all underestimated the sense of loss we had. We knew ultimately most of us would wander away to new jobs, we’d lose touch, and this once-great-thing-we-built would be absorbed into another culture. It wasn’t until we came to terms with this loss that we could pull ourselves back together and get the job done — especially important because the sale was going through until months down the road.

Change can mean mourning or celebrating.


RELATED ARTICLE: 6 Keys To Managing A “Culture of Change”

Being less than candid

If you have to make tough changes, Don’t protect people or sugar-coat it. Today’s employees demand open and honest communication. They may not like hearing what you have to say, but they need to be prepared for the change.

One of my old bosses said “bad news doesn’t get better with time.” He’s right. The sooner you get it out there and tell people the truth, the better they can deal with it.

That means sharing opportunities, risks, potentials, and consequences. People need to know the consequences of their actions — good and bad.

An example might be with media sales people. Let’s say your selling newspaper advertising, but with declining readership, your client list has shrunk and they’re not spending as much money. Now you’re company is letting you sell website advertising and other digital products like Search Engine Optimization or Search Engine Marketing. Explaining the consequence of the change might take this form:

There’s a huge opportunity out there that we have never been able to cash in on. This opens doors to new clients and new dollars we’ve never seen. If we figure this out, not only will we find new revenue for our company, but we will have a chance to grow our client and account list and make even more money! Plus, even if the paper stop printing completely some day, you’ll still have a way to survive and prosper.

The flip side is this: every day we refuse to change, we fall that much further behind. As someone else works with our clients on their online services, our client lists will get smaller. The dollars they spend will be less. Your commission checks will continue to shrink. And the day we stop publishing the paper, you’re out of a job.

Not setting the stage for change

Sell it to your staff the same way you’d sell it to your boss. Be passionate, excited, and optimistic. Be honest about the problems that may arise and how you’ll handle them and what you’ll personally do to help them succeed.

RELATED ARTICLE: How To Make Transformational Change Stick

Trying to manage transformation the same way you’d manage incremental change

Incremental change (continuous improvement) is measurable. It’s linear, predictable and logical based on past performance. Transformation is none of that. It’s redefining who we are and what we do.

It’s unpredictable (changes outside your organization). It’s illogical (demanding change when you’re already successful). Past performance is not an indicator of future success.

Forgetting to negotiate the new compact between employer and employee

Being realistic about the rewards and consequences of the change and the consequences of their action (or inaction) to achieve the goals. There’s a risk involved for an employee to embrace change. If they are gung-ho and it doesn’t work the way you want it to do, they may set themselves up for failure… and most of want to avoid that. You need to be clear about the risks and rewards. Employees often see what they’re losing, but not what they are gaining.

Lack of Consistency

When you don’t continue to make it important, they won’t either. If it’s a big deal today, it has to be a big deal tomorrow or it’s just one more of the bosses’ crazy ideas that got thrown on the trash pile.

Underestimating human potential

Trust people. They will astound you. Some of my best results have come from picking the right person to spearhead a project, giving them guidance, and then letting them grow the project without my meddling.

Forgetting to celebrate the success

One success often leads to the next. Take time to recognize the contributions your team made and celebrate the milestones on your path to change.

Want more? Here’s a great book on managing change by Carol Kinsey Gorman, Ph. D.: This Isn’t the Company I Joined: How to Lead in a Business Turned Upside Down

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