What’s ‘always true’ in change?


Our recent research investigated the contextual factors which combine and interact to make each organisational change unique. However, whilst exploring the different contexts of change was the crux of our research question, it’s not quite the whole story. Yes, we found out how changes differ, but we also found how, in some respects, they don’t.

Several enablers and derailers cropped up in our data time and time again, no matter what sort of change the leader was facing or what the context was. All too often tipping the scales between change success and change failure, these factors are always true in change, no matter the context.

Below we take a look at just some of the change enablers and derailers highlighted by our research:

Some enablers…

A safe environment – during any change programme, emotions will run high and these emotions can spread like wildfire. To avoid emotions escalating during uncertainty, the environment should promote open and honest conversation; allowing people to ask questions, sense-make and air issues rather than let them go unspoken.

Two-way communication – successful change is an iterative process which involves a cycle of reviewing, recycling and reimplementing the change. It is crucial for leaders to listen to others and know how messages are being received and interpreted throughout the rest of the organisation.

Some derailers…

Underestimating human emotion – implementing a change within an organisation is like creating an emotional whirlwind. Our brains are constantly on the lookout for potential threats during this period. Navigating through the emotional uncertainty requires great care and full attention should be given to the emotional fallout of employees.

Lack of upskilling – for a change to be successful there are several key skills that people should be equipped with, including, resilience, storytelling, decision making in ambiguity, managing resistance and negotiating (for leaders in M&A’s particularly). Equipping people with these skills is vital if leaders hope to maintain business as usual, however, according to our research, it’s not something many leaders are prioritising.

These are just some of the key enablers and derailers of change. In our infographic, we reveal more of the core factors that have the power to make or break change initiatives, offering key tips to ensure success is inevitable. Click here to see the infographic.

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