Since almost 70 percent of all changes in organizations fail, you might be interested in knowing why that's so. In the spirit of David Letterman, Rick Maurer, author of Beyond the Wall of Resistance: Why 70% of All Changes Still Fail—And What You Can Do About It, offers his Top 10 list.
10. Some leaders don't know how to lead change. Unless you are a brand-new manager or have been living in a windowless cellar for the past 20 years, you've undoubtedly been exposed to change management. You've read a couple of books, attended training, heard motivational speakers and been subjected to consultants who tout their brand of change management. As a result, most leaders know what to do—but they don't put that knowledge into practice.
9. Leaders assume that change is easy. They expect people to add this new project to their already full plate of activities. When these leaders are asked, "What's the top priority now?" They reply, "Everything."
8. The leaders believe that a good idea will win every time and that employees and other stakeholders will be so struck by their leader's brilliance that they will support whatever goofy idea they come up with. We all know that rarely happens.
7. A good leader can force people to change. As a CEO, who tried that approach, told me, "all I got was malicious compliance." People can be devilishly creative in the ways that they can slow down or foil your best laid plans.
6. How before Why. Even well-meaning leaders often rush to action. They do this because they are worried that things must change today -- or excited by the possibility of seizing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity - and not because they are insensitive louts. The people who need to get engaged and make the change a reality need to know why it's critically important to do anything differently. Without knowing why it's important, people simply won't be interested in all the details of how the change process will work.
5. They ignore the context. Once an idea takes hold in our brains, its hard to see the overall context. We miss signals that the time isn't right, that people are worn out, that conditions have changed, or that our corporate culture won't support the change management process that the leader has in mind.
4. Leaders don't understand resistance so either they ignore it, or they present mind-numbing PowerPoint shows. Those are dangerous tactics. People resist for good reasons. When a leader understands that, he also understands what it takes for people to support change.
3. Leaders go into the game without game. They lack the skills to lead and manage change well. They know what to do - they just can't do it. They've never practiced. It's like moving from miniature golf to the Masters without spending countless hours learning to drive, putt, and get out of the rough.
2. The organization is immune to change. We can say all the right words - and believe what we say - but something stops us. Think about all the people who try to lose weight or get back in shape, and how few actually succeed. They know what to do. They know how to do it. But they don't it. Same is true for organizations. No amount of training, motivation, or practice will help unless leaders examine underlying belies and commitments that stop any change they lead.
And the number one reason why change fails...
1. Leaders believe that none of the other items on this list really matter. So they do what they've always done, and tend to get the same results.
In Beyond the Wall Of Resistance, Maurer maps out three stages for applying change, including:
- Knowing What to Do. While there are many good strategies for planning and implementing change, Maurer helps readers to begin identifying what it takes to lead change.
- Bridging the Gap. Maurer identifies that leaders usually encounter a divide between knowing how to lead change and actually doing it. In this section Maurer guides leaders to recognize how to make a compelling case for change, how to get started on the right foot, how to keep the change alive, and how to get back on track.
- Narrowing the Gap the Next Time. This section helps leaders - now equipped with the knowledge of planning and implementing change - to explore options for managing that change.
Rick Maurer is the president of Maurer & Associates, a renowned change management expert, speaker and author of the book Beyond the Wall of Resistance: Why 70% of All Changes Still Fail—And What You Can Do About It. Visit rickmaurer.com for more information.