Most of us recall a time or two when an organization we work for (or led) stumbled through change communications like a toddler through a house of cards, with similar results.
Why do organizations struggle with change, to the point that it becomes the proverbial elephant in the room? While there are many variables, here are our top five culprits:
- Misaligned core values. When organizations aren’t walking the talk at all levels, the regurgitation of corporate values translates as “blah, blah, blah” to employees. This manifests in a lack of respect for leadership, poor employee morale, and an unmeasurable hit on organizational productivity. A dysfunctional corporate culture will not implement change effectively.
- Poor planning. Organizations can’t always avoid unforeseen events that place them in a reactive mode. But proactively pre-planning for “what if’s” make for a smoother pivot when it does hit the fan. When a need for change is known but leaders don’t understand the full scope of impact, change can come across like a wrecking ball to their organization. Soliciting feedback from your subject matter experts—and letting employees know you did—saves the cost and time of walking change back later. It also demonstrates that you value employee feedback and expertise, making a considerable deposit in the organization’s emotional IQ bank account.
- Failure to prepare the front line. Get leadership at all levels on the same page before announcing changes companywide. Once execs agree on a plan, prepare directors and frontline managers with talking points. Answer their questions and arm them with answers to anticipated questions from their teams. Too often, those responsible for implementing change learn about it at the same time as those they manage. Ensure message consistency and set your teams up for success by providing communication tools in advance.
- Lack of transparency. Organizations strive to hire smart people; the same people who smell something’s off when leadership is 1) slow to explain change 2) omits important details 3) deflects real questions with a pre-approved FAQ or 4) dances around the issue with vague answers. Clearly state what’s changing, why, when, and how this impacts the organization; the good and the bad. Provide updates and answer questions throughout the change process. Afterward, show why the collective effort was worth it.
- Change fatigue. Elephants aren’t the only ones that never forget. Change that takes too long to execute or occurs too often due to frequent, reactive “righting of the ship” creates a “here we go again” cynicism that spreads like wildfire, increasing turnover due to eroding faith in leadership. Getting your ducks in a row by resolving the above issues can avoid this and reduce the substantial cost tied to frequent change.