Organizational Change—The Problem

Introducing change into an organization is often difficult. Notes in this space, below and in the future, will discuss how the change manager can have troubles and how to handle them. As a start, consider this case:

A contract engineering company was not winning as many bids as it had last year. The president believed the engineers were not using modern bidding methods. He blamed this on the use of a standard spreadsheet program to create their bids. He was very worried so he bought an expensive proposal development program and directed the engineers to use it.

A year later, the engineers were taking longer to write bids and still were not winning more contracts! Gradually the engineers surreptitiously moved back to their spreadsheet approach because the new program simply could not do things that they needed. Eventually the president agreed to allow the engineers to go back to the older methods.

What went wrong?

  • The president never asked the engineers what they thought caused the problem.
  • He did not ask for their help in solving it.
  • He did not help them see that fixing the problem would be good for them as well as the company.

He believed that he knew what had to be done and so never tried to learn about the actual needs. Instead, by installing the new software, he created additional work for the engineers, did not actually solve the real problems, and, in the process, made his employees feel very anxious. None of that helped the company.

This is one example of how a needed change can fail. Did you know that change fails over 70 percent of the time? That need not be the case.

Going back to the president’s action: If he spoke with the engineers he would have learned what was getting in the way of creating good proposals; employees often know more about the workings of a system than the manager. The engineers might have suggested solutions to the difficulties; they work with the situation and are familiar with available tools and approaches. Finally, the engineers would have felt involved and would have wanted to help make the changes work.

The president didn’t want the engineers to think that he did not know what to do. In his fear, he lost the opportunity to increase the company’s internal capabilities as well as win more contracts.

As a leader, remember that you do not have to know everything. Your employees can help you be more effective and in turn they will feel more valued. That builds a strong, successful organization.

Do you want to know more about introducing change? Watch this space for the next installment.

Don’t want to wait? Then go to http://leadchangewithoutfear.com/ and check the tab “Successful Real Change.”  Or contact Paul at pauls@usf.edu.

This appeared in the IEEE Florida West Coast Section magazine, the Suncoast Signal.

Some Comments on Change Success

Think about this: Change initiatives succeed only 30 percent of the time! There are tens of thousands of books published on managing change yet we still have this poor success rate. Why?

First consider that those who will be affected by the change generally do not want it. People hate change; everyone knows that. The possibility of change is distressing, even frightening.

Thus writers focus on how managers can help their employees get past these concerns and help with the change. And that’s good advice.

The books tell the leader what can be done to help these people feel okay and want to contribute to the success. And the books I have read give excellent advice. So, again, why the high failure rate?

What hasn’t been discussed is how the manager feels about the change. The manager has a lot at stake with the change. What are the consequences for the manager if it fails? For many, the possibility of failure is distressing, even frightening—same as for the employees.

Managers needs help with how they are feeling and that is rarely discussed. It is common to hear that “Feelings have no place in business.” But the fact is that humans have feelings and to deny them gets in the way of real success.

Rather than dwelling on feelings, however, let’s look at how we can learn to use them to be even more effective.

Lead Change without Fear is the book which helps the manager in this situation.