How to lead a successful Change Management Program

Change Management is increasingly becoming a key feature of organisational culture. Companies often have to move quickly to keep up with competitors, media and their own markets, as consumer needs have become less predictable and far more demanding over the past few decades.

While organisations try to use innovative business models to meet the challenges associated with change management, the success rate of major change initiatives tends to be quite low, with research indicating change programs can be anywhere from 30 – 54% successful.

These figures tend to be quite confronting, especially as many organisations invest a lot of capital in their change and transformation programs.

So what exactly are some of the contributing causes such low rates of success?

While there are a number of hurdles that can impact the success of a change program, some of the reasons why change initiatives can flounder may include, but are not limited to:

  • unrealistic targets
  • sponsors and other stakeholders losing confidence in the change
  • staff not being adequately supported during the change
  • change agents not trained appropriately
  • communications not regular or as honest as they could be
  • change fatigue - including staff being exhausted about too many transitions taking place at once
  • failure to take into account the existing organisational culture when deploying a change program

To lead a successful change program, organisations can utilise some of the following key concepts:

Understand the organisational culture

The culture within an organisation is critical to the success of change management. Change Managers that have a strong understanding of the organisational culture can tailor a change methodology to suit the needs of stakeholders and the company itself by designing a transformation program that addresses and works with organisational culture.

This is best done by overcoming resistance and making the most of the support available – tapping into existing resources and having a clear understanding of the emotional energy of how staff think, behave and work. This will encourage a positive change initiative that is best aligned to the change and for the entire good of staff and the organisation itself

Begin at the top

While engaging staff at every level early on in a change program is extremely important, successful transformation initiatives begin at the top. Change Managers that run successful programs understand that having a well-aligned group of high-level executives will increase support and buy-in throughout the entire organisation, having a positive flow on effect during the change

Engagement of all staff

Once the executive level is on-board, all staff should be engaged to ensure program success. Mid-level and frontline staff can have a huge impact on a change program, as they often have first-hand knowledge of what can work, and what can go wrong. If they do not support the change, implementation of the program can become an ongoing challenge from both an organisational perspective and for the change management team. Regular forums should be held with stakeholders, led by the change team and executives. Communication should be regular and various means utilised to ensure all staff are engaged and included

Strengthen the coalition

Many organisations have the right idea when it comes to creating a coalition for the change. They invest a lot of time and money on recruiting Change Agents to the cause, which is exactly the right thing to do. However, if they don’t provide adequate training and support to the Change Agents, they potentially risk losing a prime opportunity to create a successful change program.

Change Agents should be chosen carefully and on-boarded using a formal process that includes holding a briefing workshop to provide a clear framework for deliverables and expectations. The initial workshop should focus heavily on the actual change methodology and provide Change Agents with a good grounding and understand of the emotional aspects of change. This should then be supported by regular professional development workshops to ensure they are well equipped to support others and to encourage momentum and a positive implementation of the program

While these are just some of the principles that can be utilised to ensure a successful change program, it is important to understand that leaders, sponsors and the change team should work together to encourage sustained transformational change.

There will always be a number of factors that contribute the to success of a program, and having a strong change team and keeping in mind some of the ideas listed above can be a good template for increasing the chance of success.