To quote Rosabeth Moss Kanter, esteemed Harvard Business School professor, author of 15 books and The Change Toolkit, “Personally, I hate change, but I love renovating my house.” Change that is imposed – through coercion – is different to change that we embrace or initiate, it seems.
David Garvin, from Harvard university, has found only two reasons why change efforts fail:
Poor design. He cites a.)failure to address underlying processes b.) giving up accountability to IT, for example and c.) avoiding necessary behavioural change
Poor communication. Leaders need to repeat a message at least 6 times, demonstrate and clarify their intent, as well as allay employee fears.
Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert Sutton, both professors at Stanford University, concur. In their book, “Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-truths and Total Nonsense,” they mention four factors that drive effective change, once the decision has been made:
Dissatisfaction – people need to be dissatisfied with the status quo
Direction – Modelling and giving clear, constant communication of what, why and what to do now
Overconfidence – “excessive faith” punctuated by self-doubt and updating
Embracing the Mess – acceptance of challenges, miscommunication, stress and rumours as normal, to be learned from and overcome: A focus on What’s right, not Who’s right
To stress the first point, in particular, how do we create dissatisfaction with the status quo, so as to stimulate growth?
It begins with a compelling vision – a metaphorical new car we have test-driven and can’t wait to own. this needs to be followed by a plan for fuelling it and ensuring it remains a delight to drive. And the will to take on the nay-sayers and critics, for as long as is necessary.
Let’s not put lipstick on a bull-dog, but rather do the dirty, yet thrilling work of engaging in meaningful change.