Why Transformations Fail

It’s not what you think. In the wake of the pandemic, everyone is finally talking about putting the HUMANs back into change. At Fire up, we have always embraced human-centred change, a global movement that puts people at the centre of change. It’s based on the powerful premise of empowerment, that people embrace change they create themselves. But there has always been something missing…
 

That’s great everyone is talking about human centred change, but just HOW well is it being done?

Unfortunately, despite the best intentions, not as well as we would all like. This point of realisation came to us when we were working in a major organisation that had become an absolute ‘washing machine’ of initiatives. Everyone was so overloaded – with too much work to do but also mentally overloaded and they really struggled to get anything real done.

Overload – it’s a major factor in why transformations fail

In the last few years, we have seen it time and time again. Overload impacts everyone’s ability to implement strategy and transform their organisations. 

Only recently has one of the leading organisational change experts Kotter, who you may all know, revised his view on what is important. Successful change in a disruptive and rapidly changing world and how it relates to humans and being ‘overloaded.’

Overload can come from trying to change too much at once and can trigger the wrong behavioural responses in your people. Management control…..practices can effectively remove obstacles and solve problems. However, they also have the potential to inadvertently trigger a survival thought pattern of fight or flight response because of the…”have to” focus.’

 

The 3 main reasons why transformations fail

Let’s look at how the overload arises. There are 3 main reasons, which are crucial to address as you plan a whole of organisation change .

1. Not focusing the effort 

Over 60-70% of your leader’s effort needs to be focused on implementing strategic or transformational change, or it won’t happen. An obvious reason is just trying to implement too much big change all at once, however, that’s not the only reason.

Fear-based motivation, or a burning platform, is a popular way leaders try to motivate people and kickoff transformation. But unfortunately, it automatically puts people into ‘fight or flight’. People feel they have to fix the burning problems. They end up generating lots of tactical initiatives to fix the problems, run around doing ‘busy work’ and get mentally overloaded. That’s the ‘washing machine’ we just mentioned. 

2. Not recognising that people need to connect changes to the big picture

If you want people to embrace change, people need to connect the dots and make sense of how changes affect their day-to-day jobs. 

When change is developed in a back room and nothing is communicated on the belief that ‘no information is better than incomplete information’, it just triggers anxiety. Given our natural threat-seeking radar…employees are then likely to ‘just make it up’. You end up with people running around just doing their own thing and creating disconnected change that overloads everyone. 

3. Not engaging the frontline employees enough 

Your people want to be empowered, it’s the key to your success. With typically over 70% of frontline employees enthusiastic** about being involved in changing their organisation, surely that is untapped potential you can’t ignore?

Too often, rather than addressing the ‘overload’ challenge, we protect the capacity of our people and just don’t engage them well enough.  Yet they want to be engaged: we can listen to their ideas, get their help to prioritise the work and help them see how it connects to the big picture. 

** Gartner -2019 

Take a moment to reflect. What are you seeing is your organisation ? Is your employee overload a major barrier to your change success ? 

If you’d like to talk it through, feel free to book a discovery call below. 

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