Mark Craemer No Comments

Countless change management efforts fail but when things start to derail, there are opportunities to self-correct and get back on track again. And a true learning organization with a strong leader will seize these opportunities.

Organizational change is difficult to manage because it is especially complex and often involves more than one type of change at the same time, such as reengineering, restructuring and culture change.

The factors necessary to manage such complex change under the best of circumstances require: vision, skills, incentives, resources and an action plan. If any one of these is incomplete or missing, change can fail.

In fact, nearly 75% of all organizational change efforts fail to meet the expectations of stakeholders. And these change initiatives most often fail when they are driven by ineffective, missing or conflicting leadership.

So what is there to do? In earlier posts, I wrote about moving beyond organizational stagnation and overcoming resistance to change. But what can we do when our best efforts go sideways, and how can we get back on track again?

In “Changemaking: Tactics and Resources for Managing Organizational Change,” Richard Bevan provides a practical approach for managing change in organizations. He contends that strategic clarity, two-way communication, employee engagement and hands-on leadership are the primary levers through which change can be effectively managed.

Bevan provides a straight-forward framework for what he calls the seven core factors for the effective management of change. These can also be especially helpful when montioring the status of a derailed change effort in order to identify the necessary action to get back on track.

His core factors are:

  1. Clarity
  2. Engagement
  3. Resources
  4. Alignment
  5. Leadership
  6. Communication
  7. Tracking

Here’s an example of his core questions for clarity: Are the purpose, direction and approach defined and documented clearly? Are these understood and accepted by key stakeholder groups?

Bevan follows this up with specific tactics to deal with these questions. For the core factor Clarity these tactics are:

  • Develop a summary document to drive clarity, and to serve as a reference source on the purpose and process of change.
  • Distribute the summary. Use it as a plaform on which to build all communication (internal and external) related to the change.
  • Create a brief elevator pitch for managers—what’s changing and how the transition will be accomplished.
  • Create other tools to assist in the process; for example, a brief PowerPoint presentation for executives and others to use while discussing the changes with their teams.
  • Provide managers with talking points and suggested responses to key questions.
  • Maintain and manage the summary. Seek input and comment; keep it current and accurate, and complete.
  • Provide online access to the current version, and enable input, questions and discussion.

In my work as a change management consultant, using a framework such as this along with the templates, worksheets, checklists and guidelines found in the book can be very helpful in ensuring a successful outcome.

It’s clear that every leader needs to continue learning in order to remain adaptable and agile. And nothing provides more learning opportunities than change initiatives—whether they succeed or fail.

A.G. Lafley, longtime CEO of Procter & Gamble, says nothing contributed more to his growth as a leader than his failures. “It’s Darwin’s theory,” says Lafley. “When you stop learning, you stop development and you stop growing. That’s the end of a leader.”

Learning and growth should be the goal of any organization, and getting derailed change efforts back on track offers an excellent opportunity for this.

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