Change Management in the Transformation Journey

There are more failures in change management efforts than we all think and know. Leadership guru Dr. John Kotter says that it is proven that 70% of all major change management efforts in organizations fail. They fail because more often than not, organizations do not take the holistic approach required to see the change through.

Leaders embark on transformation efforts either to keep ahead of competitions, or just to stay afloat. The motivation behind this need for change probably stamped from the thought that: “if I do not change well, I do not adapt fast enough, my organization or business may lose out, gets left behind and eventually fizzles off.”

However, if organizations jump straight into transformation without considering a holistic strategy or approach, they can also be adversely affected.

Change management should not happen only when there is a big reorganization, M&A, technological or digitalization roll-out. In fact, it should happen in all kinds of change that an organization is facing, be it big or small. It can happen when there are new ways of delivering products and/or services, bringing about a mindset and cultural change, encouraging new skills and competencies, policies and processes, etc.

The misconception is that change management is just an activity that takes place after the implementation of a new reorganization, or new technologies or any introduction of new changes. This is far from true! In actual fact, change management is a journey that must start right from the beginning of any change implementation.

It starts with firstly, developing the vision and business case clearly so that everyone knows and understands what is this change. Once this is established, secondly, it is to activate people’s sense of urgency to change.

In the eagerness to quickly implement change, many leaders jump straight into communicating what must change, then roll out the change. In this change process, what is gravely missing is communicating why the need for change. Hence, resulting in people’s anxieties and adversities to this change, rather than being inspired to be part of this change, though it might be for the better.  

In general, most people are skeptical and hesitant about change, and some will outright resist and even undermine the change. One of the common issues faced in change management is managing people’s resistance to change. In racing against the essence of time in most projects, leadership or project teams just bulldoze their way to rush through to implementation. Only to fail in getting the optimal result later on.

It is therefore crucial to get people’s “buy-in” in any change management, so as to capture their motivation to go with this change. A compelling business case to persuade the need for change is required, but to appeal to the “hearts” of the people is the road to success in this change journey as people connect and resonate with the values of the change that will bring about a greater good.

People engagement is not once-off, it is an ongoing journey. In this change engagement journey, it is important to put together a group of people with enough power and energy to lead this change. These may not necessary be “high-powered” people; more so the right composition of people. At the same time, it is also identifying the key stakeholders to ensure that they will not be left out in the engagement journey.

While people engagement is important, it is also key to recognize that processes form part of this change journey. A detailed plan on how to implement the actual changes must be shared so that stakeholders can anticipate what might be some challenges, and develop plans to counter these challenges, and eliminate the obstacles. 

Stakeholders must make an effort to set proper evaluation in place right from the beginning. This includes understanding their needs, their fears, and how these can be addressed to allay their anxieties of these changes. As well as focusing on how the change might impact, and prepare to provide the support needed to help them cope with the accompanying impact.

The evaluation on the change must continue in order to measure how these new approaches are accepted and settling in the organization’s culture.



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