Preparing to lead successful organisational change

Monday, January 11, 2016 - 17:04

Most executives and leaders will be familiar with the challenges that come with a change management effort. As businesses continue to experience a highly disruptive corporate landscape, enterprise-wide change is becoming an important aspect of company performance.

According to research from the Project Management Institute, only 18 per cent of firms are effectively leading change, while the vast majority (64 per cent) are only moderately successful. Further research from McKinsey & Company found a mere third of change programs are actually implemented correctly.

Part of the reason for this mixed success rate is a lack of knowledge among leaders about how to oversee new initiatives within an organisation and ensure they are successful. Management training and upskilling will play an important role here for individuals who want to manage this process effectively.

According to research from the Association of Talent Development, the majority of businesses are also relying on internal subject matter experts and shared best practice to guide the implementation of these projects. More broadly though, individuals will need to know how they can lead new initiatives and whether they are inadvertently making mistakes because of their preconceived notions about change management.

What does it take to lead change successfully?

For leaders, there are a number of factors that will ultimately affect how well a project is implemented. According to research published in the Harvard Business Review, there are a few key features that will set apart an effective change initiative.

The authors described these as DICE factors - the four pain points that can separate a successful initiative from an unsuccessful one. These are:

Duration: The researchers found that, contrary to popular belief, the length of time it took to complete a change management initiative doesn't correlate with how likely it is to succeed. In fact, long processes were more successful than short ones if they were accompanied by regular reviews. Keeping the duration of time between these reviews short can therefore help to deliver a strong change management effort.

 The time between reviews will affect how successful a change strategy is.

Integrity: This refers to how well teams can perform the task they are given. Competition for talent within an organisation can make it hard to develop the right team for a new initiative while poor job definitions make it trickier to find the right individuals in the first place. A project that has integrity will use the right people and be supported by appropriate internal structures.

Commitment: The researchers noted two types of commitment that were essential for a successful project.

The first was from executives whose support would be essential for an initiative to be successful.

The second was for employees who would be subject to a new initiative, structure or other development within the company. These individuals also have to be committed to the outcome and willing to put in the additional work a project requires.

Effort: Leaders who are overseeing a major organisational change will often underestimate the existing obligations staff have and overestimate their free time to commit to a new project. The authors suggested aiming for no more than 10 per cent of an employee's time going towards a new effort.

Finding success in change

Clearly there are a number of significant issues that can affect how well leaders undertake the change management process. Having the skills and experience to lead these initiatives is fast becoming an imperative for leaders, as is identifying and addressing any weaknesses in their existing skillset.

If you’re tasked with planning and leading and change initiatives within your organisation, AIM has a wide range of qualifications that can equip you with the skillsets you need including our Certificate IV and Diploma in Project Management as well as our popular Diploma of Management and Leadership. We also have a large variety of industry leading short courses such as Change Management that can enable you to lead these projects successfully.