Success in major company changes

on BLOG, success, transformation 9 Mag, 2014

Success in major company changes

I was reading with interest the results of a U.S. study: about 70% of major company changes fail. Questioning the executives of the top U.S. companies, the prevailing interpretation is that the failures are not related to lack of resources or skills, but rather to the resistance to change opposed by the organization itself. But it would be too easy to blame the employees of attachment to the status quo, of inertia and many other venial and capital sins; rather ask ourselves the direct responsibility of the leaders in the communication of changes, renovations, new strategies, merging.

Very often, the leader badly communicates the upcoming organizational transformation, creating resistance and nervousness (or even fear) in employees. The project starts and after a few months the executives begin to see various signs of resistance; and how do they behave? Generally with more and more aggressive speeches, with ultimatum and demands. The employees? They react to the more tense climate with a resistance that can reach up to total closure or sabotage.

The point is that very often those who resist are not aware of it, but subconsciously only think at their own survival, reacting to what is perceived as highly dangerous. The leader has to analyze the situation, trying to identify the reasons at the origin of the more or less underground resistance, the negative springs to which employees do react. In the simplest case, there might just be a lack of information, hardly understandable data, confusion between objectives and actions, lack of clear explanations, excess of acronyms and numbers. So, at the first level, the leader-coach has to meet several times the employees, doing more presentations, explaining the change in simple terms, using multiple points of view and addressing to more communication channels.

Once the context and direction have been clarified, the leader has to fight the fear of the audience, and this is something far more delicate to handle: if the staff perceives danger for his future or for his place of work - which is very common when major business transformations are communicated - , he literally closes his “gates” of communication. A good leader must be able to go beyond figures and timing and transfer the change in an empathetic way, understanding what is below the "aseptic" and technical questions posed by the audience, getting in tune with his audience by presenting them with what will happen to each of them, turning the change into an opportunity for each.

But, frequently, if the leader gets to manage even this level, he can find that the problems are not solved. In fact - surprise, surprise ... - if the leader hasn’t built a solid reputation over time, if he hasn’t become a model for his employees , the employees can receive the clearest information and reassurances about the future, but will not adhere to the plan. Here, the secret is “just” the result of much hard work and consistency, of practicing what he preaches, of spasmodic accountability, of recognition of his mistakes as well as of others’, of much time spent with employees.

Only in this way we can lower the percentage of failures and create a virtuous circle of learning and commitment.






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