Whether you are hiring a new leader, implementing a new hybrid workplace model, merging, or executing a new strategy, managing change is critical to the success of any organization.
In my experience, leaders spend too much time communicating the vision and the benefits of the change and not enough time talking about the ‘how’.
I have worked with dozens of clients to help identify the risks and craft a strategy to address them – to arrive at the organization’s new end state faster.
From my experience, here are the most common barriers to transformational change.
- Lack of a Communication Strategy That People Pay Attention to
When I asked middle managers and individual contributors whether they believed their organizations’ strategies were achievable, they scored 30% lower than executives due to poor communications.
When it comes to your communication strategy, an organization-wide email and prerecorded message won’t cut it. A recent Microsoft study on email open rates showed that only 40% of employees would read more than 30% of any internal email. Simply increasing the frequency of communications can further desensitize employees and thus doesn’t provide a solution.
Another critical factor in driving buy-in and engagement to organizational strategy changes is ensuring individual teams understand how their goals contribute to organizational success.
Big ideas need to be talked about and not read.
- Excluding Informal Leaders
Ensuring that your organization’s leaders are aligned and bought into the organizational change is critical to successful change management – but what about informal leaders not listed on your organizational chart? Informal Leaders can be found at all levels of an organization and frequently fly under the radar of executive leadership in large organizations. Informal Leaders often act as information brokers and influence how others perceive the organization, so they should be identified and carefully considered in your change management efforts.
Once you have identified your Informal Leaders, you can incorporate them into your change management strategy by creating a liaison and a change champions network and reaching out to them for bottom-up feedback. By combining their feedback early on, your organization can benefit from fine-tuning the tactical execution while also building buy-in and credibility for the efforts.
- Failing to Establish and Clarify New Working Relationships
Failing to establish new working relationships, ownership, and cultural norms often presents one of the largest sources of frustration in organizational change. Depending on the nature of the transformation, teams can experience massive changes in processes and working relationships that are difficult to predict and coordinate.
From a risk perspective, changed lines of communication and expectations create an environment where mistakes can happen due to a lack of coordination. Over the long term, poor coordination can lead to frustration, damaged relationships, and ultimately mistrust in leadership.
To prevent your organization from being blind-sided by operational risks and missed handoffs, consider running exercises about the impact of the change with the people undergoing change.
- Not Collecting Bottom-Up Feedback
In all large organizations, frontline employees have valuable insights that are frequently overlooked. During times of transformational change, your frontline can serve as real-time resources and feedback mechanisms to monitor the progress of your new initiatives or efforts.
From a risk perspective, failing to consider what is happening to your frontline will slow down your reaction time to new threats, lead to overestimating your company’s ability and lull you into a sense of false security.
In the long term, the risk is that your people will lose trust in leadership. Organizations with low trust in leadership frequently experience lower productivity, low psychological safety, high turnover, and stifled innovation.
An organization undergoing transformation, by definition, changes over time – being vigilant in monitoring risk should go hand-in-hand.