Ensure the success of your change initiative: stress test your case for change!

Last week I attended an interesting Webinar from Gartner about change fatigue.

According to data collected by Gartner, change fatigue is quickly becoming the number 1 priority for most HR organizations in 2023.

The reason is that the number of change initiatives in organizations is increasing exponentially; simultaneously, the enthusiasm of the workforce to embrace, or at least support these changes, is plummeting.

As a result, many organizations are currently looking for resources to address this, for instance in the form of change management methodologies (e.g. ADKAR), or by asking for support from specialized consulting boutiques.

The why of change

However, as valuable as these resources might be, it is important not to jump to the ‘how’, without paying attention to the ‘why’, the ‘what’ and ‘the team’.

In my personal experience, most people do not resist change if they understand the ‘why’, the ‘what’, and if they recognize ‘the team’.

In this post, I will deal with the why.

A personal example

At a certain moment in my career, I was asked to restructure a large Shared Service Center to drive down the fixed costs and increase the quality of the services.

In order to present the case for action, as well as my plan to address this, I organized an off-site conference with my direct and indirect reports

When I presented the financial and operational figures I had compiled to illustrate the case for action, the room became completely quiet. When I informed about the reasons for this, I was told by my (in)direct reports, that they had never seen the financial figures I showed them before.

When I subsequently discussed the case volumes we would need to realize in order to justify these fixed costs (based on benchmarking data), they completely understood that reaching these volumes was unrealistic, and that there was no alternative but to reduce our fixed costs.

The inherent strength of our case for action

Based on these and other experiences, I believe the single most important thing in change management processes is to clearly define and test our case for action.

A practical way to do this is to stress-test our case for action in a safe environment, by inviting trusted colleagues to shoot holes in it.

That can be a scary, or at least an uncomfortable exercise. Especially if we are not fully convinced of the case for action ourselves, or feel the pressure from our sponsors to demonstrate progress.

However, skipping this step does make the need go away. On the contrary, it only increases the risks. The sooner we understand the strength (or weakness) of our case for change, the earlier we can course-correct. This understanding is mission-critical for the success

We should therefore not ‘go live’ with our change management initiative, until we are fully convinced that we understand the possible objections that could be raised, and we defined adequate answers to address them.

Skipping such a stress test for our large-scale change initiatives could prove to be the equivalent of going live with a piece of software we have not tested before.

We live in a ‘Show me’ world

Ever since the big corporate scandals of the early 2000’s we left the ‘Tell me world’ and entered the ‘Show me world’. The statement ‘In God we trust. All others must bring data’, is no longer exclusively for the use of top leaders ‘who have seen it all’.

The target group of our change management initiatives implemented this philosophy as well a long time ago…

Picture credits: Gartner

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