5 Common Transformational Change Challenges and How to Overcome Them

It’s been said that death and taxes are the only certainties in this world, but the other absolute you can depend on is change. So don’t be left polishing brass on the Titanic – it’s eventually going down, so get ready to take the leap.

The greatly accelerated pace of this certainty is due to the constantly shifting market conditions and speed of innovation, forcing organizations to embrace change or perish. As Peter Drucker said, “the greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence; it is to act with yesterday’s logic.” Real transformational change often involves new technologies and more advanced operating models, driven by strategies focused on delivering sustainable long-term growth.

The reality is that transformational change is more difficult now than ever before. In fact, 70-80 percent of transformational change programs fail at the execution stage

Here are the five most common reasons for failure and how to overcome them:

  1. Visibility: Requirements gathering, analysis and management are the causes of failure in 60-80 percent of projects, according to the ASAPM. Performing a transformational change diagnostic prior to project launch will provide a consistent approach tailored specifically to your business and unique strategic goals. It also enables you to understand your organization’s critical capability gaps, which has a direct impact on successful execution. Finally, it provides you with the insight into project requirements that can be factored into a change plan that will guide you through execution to project success.
  2. Lack of Clearly Defined Metrics and Milestones: Once you’ve conducted a transformation change diagnostic, you will then have a roadmap that defines the set of activities and/or deliverables that must take place at each defined stage—these will serve as your milestones. Metrics should also be well-defined and achievable. Without clearly defined metrics and milestones, you can’t gauge progress nor can you track performance. In addition, when the project hits a snag, as it always does, you’ll be able to identify what the problem is and how to manage it.
  3. Dedicated Change Management Resource: According to Best Practices in Change Management – 2014 Edition, a benchmark study conducted by Prosci Inc., lack of a dedicated change management resource led to neglect in critical change management activities. The benefits of a dedicated change management resource were an improved focus on change management and “having a single point of contact with clear responsibility and accountability.” Consequently, having a dedicated change management resource correlated to more success with change management programs.
  4. Executive Buy-In: If you’ve ever worked on a highly visible project, then you understand the expression, “it’s like herding cats.” Without active and visible executive sponsorship, things inevitably fall apart. Departments feud over funding and resources, team members fail to meet deadlines with critical deliverables and everyone else refuses to adopt the changes. With an active and visible sponsor, projects remain on task and participants feel accountable for delivering on time and on-budget. However, executive buy-in is just the beginning as the most successful projects engaged sponsors in the change by regularly holding meetings, providing relevant updates, reminding them of key objectives and communicating directly with sponsors when necessary. In fact, participants in the Best Practices in Change Management – 2014 Edition agreed that what they would do differently on their next project is “to more effectively engage sponsors by involving them early and ensuring they are active and visible throughout the project.”
  5. Employee Engagement: “Employee resistance is always in direct proportion to the degree to which people are kept in the dark and out of the change process.” ~What is Transformation, and Why Is It So Hard to Manage? By Dean Anderson, Linda Ackerman Anderson.

The earlier you communicate with employees, the more engaged and supportive they will be. In their book Blue Ocean Strategy, W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne outline four barriers to introducing new workplace rules, processes and procedures: The first one is dealing with people, managing their expectations and explaining why certain changes are being made. The third barrier is motivating staff and getting them on board when introducing a change management strategy. Convincing influential people to embrace new processes and procedures — and then highlighting their achievements so that others will follow their lead — is one way to overcome the hurdles. Therefore, the first step of any communications plan is to make sure that people understand why strategic changes are necessary in the first place.

An effective communications plan should include these five components:

  • Identification of all stakeholders and key influencers
  • Clearly define stakeholder expectations
  • An editorial calendar
  • Distribution channels
  • Significant metrics and milestones

The reality is that “change will happen with you or without you. So you can get in front of it, respond to it, or be road kill,” as David Pottruck writes in Stacking the Deck: How to Lead Breakthrough Change Against Any Odds.

So how ready are you for transformational change? Get a jump-start by seeing how you measure up to leading global companies with this quick and easy 10-point self-diagnostic survey based on based on the pmX Transformational Change Diagnostic.