The Real Change Pitfalls – Part I: Leadership

I decided to deal with some elementary Change Pitfalls during the next few posts / weeks. During my professional carreer I had to experience that Change is mostly suverted by a set of not more than four items that include ten major Pitfalls for every Change Project. As they are essential for every Change Process, it is enough to destroy every positive outcome.

As a start and for further reading please have Kotter’s Eight in mind:

  • Not establishing a great enough sense of urgency
  • Not creating a powerful enough guiding coalition
  • Lacking a vision
  • Under-communicating the vision by a factor of ten
  • Not removing obstacles to the new vision
  • Not systematically planning for–or creating–short term wins
  • Declaring victory too soon
  • Not anchoring changes in the corporation’s culture

Nost of us know these eight items but  it is often hard to convert them from their theoretical approach into reality. This is why I also decided to write about the Change Pitfalls, as the Pitfalls are basically nothing more than an everyday practical mirror of these theoretical considerations…

Starting Part I – Leadership

Reason #1: Leadership Messaging is Inconsistent

We know that it is critical that the details of the Change be consistently communicated to all affected Employees. It’s common, however, for employees to receive mixed messages from management. Even when the CXO-level offers a compelling reason for Change, if the next tier of Management fails to clearly deliver this message to their respective work groups, inconsistencies and confusion develop across the organization, reducing employees’ understanding and receptivity to the Change. Often, the root cause of this inconsistent messaging is that senior leaders are not able to convince Management that the Changes are a worthwhile pursuit.

Imagine the following situation: A Chemical Company recognized that their current operating model was neither efficient nor cost effective. To resolve these issues, they undertook a complete transformation of their business operating model. This Change impacted over 20,000 employees at all levels of the Organization, with roughly 3,00 employees losing their jobs and the rest of the population either moving positions or experiencing Change in their day-to-day work activities.

Where is the Pitfall: The communication strategy had been designed in a Cascade approach, meaning the CXO would deliver the initial messaging, then the next tier of management would communicate to their respective work groups. While in Theory this approach works well, it’s critical that the employees are hearing genuine and consistent messaging from not only the CXO and management, but across all managers. Unfortunately, this organization set the launch for the change initiative to adhere to a predetermined timeline, but failed to first ensure that all managers understood and believed in the Change. Manager A and Manager B were not communicating a consistent message regarding the change process, the vision, and the outcome to their team. This had major consequences: the inconsistencies created misalignment among employees and management, resulting in poor support of the Change.

The Change Curve
The Change Curve

Reason #2: Leaders Lacking Decisiveness

Even when it’s business as usual, some managers may avoid making Decisions out of fear of making Mistakes; and this fear is often exacerbated during periods of Change. Such behavior can have detrimental consequences, as indecisiveness may stall the project. Without decisions around key dependencies, the project hits roadblocks, thus impacting the budget, resources, and the legitimacy of the project. The longer leaders ruminate over decisions impacting the project, the more likely the program will end up being marginalized and failing to achieve its original objectives. It’s quite simple: It’s difficult for employees to decide to support a Change when the leaders appear to be wavering.

Directly go to part 2 here!

3 thoughts on “The Real Change Pitfalls – Part I: Leadership

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