The most common mistakes in Change Management

In an ever-changing economy, organisations need to transform and adapt regularly in order to align with market pressures and requirements. But even though change management has become quite common in companies, leading successful change projects remains difficult and 70% of such initiatives fail.

There is no magic formula for leading successful change initiatives, as each project is unique, however there are lessons that can be drawn from past experiences.

This article proposes a list of the common mistakes[1] that MindForest with its 20+ years of experience has come across while working with organisations of various sizes and sectors:

Before implementing a change initiative, organisations need to understand the root causes of the problems they face instead of rushing into the implementation phase and failing to target the real issue/challenge.
Sponsors have to understand their role and responsibilities. They need to be involved very early on in the project and also throughout the whole project, as sponsorship plays a key role in any change project by providing legitimacy and support and thus helping the project to move forward.

A vision provides the long-term perspective that all stakeholders need to understand in order to make sense of actions taken and of their tasks. It is also vital to ensure that their efforts are channelled in the right direction, hence diminishing reasons for resistance. Understanding the vision will provide the necessary sense for a change project.

Projects with a fuzzy strategy and unclear goals are hard to follow and execute. A clearly defined structure and strategy – leaving some room for flexibility – can be more easily communicated and provide the possibility to adjust when required.

Change requires time, it impacts routines and habits that won’t change from one day to the other. Change leading teams should always bear this aspect in mind and leave time for employees to adapt and adopt new ways of working.

Depending on the size of the project various resources will be required to be able to move forward and make it a success. Planning a project will help to identify the resources required for its execution and to set the right longterm goals.

To reduce the risk of failure, change management projects cannot be improvised and require a team that has been trained and prepared to lead such initiatives.

Resistance to change is normal as it disrupts comfortable habits. It can be found throughout the whole hierarchy of the organisation and does not just emanate from employees. Assuming that people will change and deal with their resistance on their own is a big mistake, Therefore, change leaders need to remain aware of the resistance and identify the triggers, so they can tackle them and find the right approach.

Communication needs to be integrated in any change project and requires careful planning to support the change initiatives in the best possible way.

With the right communication, employees will better understand the need for change (within the organisation) and eventually become more willing to contribute in order to make the change project a success.

Culture plays a fundamental role in organisations and in the employees’ capacity to identify with their workplace. Change initiatives will therefore to a varying degree affect a company’s culture. Solely focusing on the processes of the change project is a mistake. Integrating the human aspect, in other words also focusing on what the change actually means for the employees, is crucial for the success of any change initiative.

Change projects impact different departments of an organisation. Hence, change leaders need to integrate strategic stakeholders in the process to ensure legitimacy and support towards the implemented initiatives. Ideally management will lead the change visibly and live by example to encourage and motivate employees to follow their examples.
A change project can last over long periods of time which makes it even more important to take the time to recognize different milestones to steer the project towards the desired outcome. This will increase motivation and regularly reenergise team dynamics.

Applying one and the same strategy for different change projects will not work. Each project has its own specificities and requires targeted actions. Each project needs to be carefully analysed. Lessons learned from previous projects will nevertheless be useful to avoid repeating the same mistakes.

The implementation of change initiatives requires the implementation of actions to make the change happen. Nevertheless, it is important to gather feedback from employees to understand levels of acceptance of the actions implemented and make any necessary modifications. As a result, employees will feel more engaged in the process, their opinions matter.

“Failure is success if we learn from it”

In any change project “things” will not always go according to plan and mistakes will occur. This is natural and normal as each project is unique in its own way. However, as most advisors have realised on the basis of their experience in change management, reflecting on the mistakes they have seen in different organisations can help to avoid falling into the same pitfalls and thus increase the chances of success.

Good news!

What if you could avoid all these mistakes with the right support? Benefit from MindForest’s 20+ years in leading successful change projects whatever your challenge is: corporate move, leadership change, strategy definition or evolution, organisation, digital transformation… we are here for you.

[1] They are all equally important and the order in which they appear is not relevant