It still surprises us just how many organizations leave change to chance or at best provide a couple of hours training in a workshop to prepare their leaders to lead change.
We’re also confronted regularly with the complaint about ‘change fatigue’ – the alleged issue where the amount of change somehow becomes too much for the organization, and people within the organization, to handle. Considering this change fatigue issue first, let’s take a quick look at what this actually means and what we can do about it.
When we work with organizations going through transition it really is a complex affair. Maintaining focus, achieving vertical and horizontal alignment, understanding roles and responsibilities, deciding, understanding and committing to priorities……it really is a lot of effort. Clearly during significant change periods this can cause a drag on the organization and stress levels rise, potential risk levels increase, and employees can struggle to retain any form of focus on the business goals.
But the cliché that ‘change is a constant’ is like any other cliché in that there is generally a substantial truth behind the words. Let’s be clear – change is not new, it has been around forever. And here is the news – all evidence points to the fact that ongoing change is just a fact of life – business and personal. So, can we afford the luxury of change fatigue?
In short the answer is clearly ‘no’. Organizations can simply not allow their leaders and people to succumb to be victims of change fatigue. If an organization stands still and does not change to cope with and take advantage of the opportunities that change presents, then it is doomed to failure. So what can be done?
Managing and leading change has to become a core competence of the leaders and navigating change needs to become a core competence for everyone. The company should make change a positive rather than something that has to be endured. Organizations need to g,et really good at leading, managing and effecting change. There are so many organizations feeling sorry for themselves because they have to change. Becoming good at changing can quickly become a competitive advantage.
We also see a lot of generic change workshops or courses which focus on how change makes the individual feel. All good stuff but the next piece is often missing i.e. “so what are you going to do about it?”
We don’t have the luxury of negotiating with the world to let us have six or twelve months of stability. It is simply not a realistic expectation. You cannot stop the roundabout; it is not within your remit, scope or capability so you need to find ways to stay on the roundabout without being catapulted off into the weeds. The sooner this gets recognized by an organization, the sooner resources can be mobilized to make effective change management simply part of doing business.
The leadership team that expects it to be “better next year” or are waiting for “things to settle down” are fooling themselves and ultimately are destined for a rough ride because for them change fatigue will in fact become a reality and they will lose good people, be unable to compete and will lose money as the organization fails to effectively implement the changes that will be necessary to maintain momentum and a competitive position in their chosen market.
Change programs mostly fail because whilst much of how change works is recognized, it simply does not get the focus, the resources and the time required to carry it off.
But it’s not all bad news. With a robust and formal process that provides the tools and importantly, the time to lead people through a realignment program, great results can be achieved. Providing context around the change, the impact for the individual and practical guides and tools to assist with the successful navigation of the change facilitates the ultimate success of the transition.