More change, please

Catherine Smithson
July 11, 2011

Has anyone, anywhere, ever heard a team member or manager ask for more change? No? I didn’t think so! The phrases I hear most often are:

“Why are we changing? Things are OK the way they are.”
“This is change for change’s sake.”
“We are changing too much, too fast.”
“I don’t have confidence in the way change is done around here.”

Executives, on the other hand, often say “More change please!” They are the change initiators, the group that create the vision, the business strategy and the changes that will impact everyone in the organisation. They want more change, more quickly and are often perplexed and frustrated by their organisation’s lack of enthusiasm and capability to implement change successfully.

A few weeks ago, I had this exact conversation with the CEO of a medium sized organisation which is undergoing the most significant change in its history. Everything is changing, except the desks and chairs. Vision, values, culture, strategy, structure, roles, IT systems, business processes and all the people related HR practices are changing—and fast.

Customers will need to change the way they work with the organisation as well. The CEO told me he was aware that the pace of change was putting people under pressure, but there was no option from a business perspective. He genuinely wanted people to come on the journey and be involved and empowered.

By contrast, the managers and specialists I worked with in this organisation knew that the change was important, but gaps emerged as we discussed the people aspects:

“I know we need to change, but I’m not sure how to explain it to my team in a way that’s relevant to them”.
“I’m not sure what I am and am not allowed to tell my team about the change, so I don’t say anything”.
“My team is so change resistant I don’t know what to do or say to address this.”
“How can I lead change with my team when I might be made redundant?”

These gaps are dangerous: people and change projects can fall into them! Gaps cause misunderstandings, delays, reduced benefits, and sometimes, failed change. I bet the 70% of changes that fail to deliver on time, on budget, to business requirements, had gaps.

As a change manager, I coach executives, managers and teams on how to spot the change gaps and fill them in. Gap filling methods are always face-to-face. Use one-on-ones, team meetings, workshops, training, town hall meetings.

Yes, gap filling takes time and money. It’s an investment in the change, and if you do it well, you will one day hear those magic words: more change please!

Author avatar
Catherine Smithson
Catherine Smithson is a leading facilitator, educator and consultant in change and leadership. She has 20 years’ experience as a senior manager and a consultant and has an in-depth understanding of best practices worldwide. She is the managing director of Being Human.
Read more