ees, and if you can do that, you will get more people on
board [and] the change will move faster because there
won’t be as much friction, as much resistance from employees against the change,” Alpern says.
Explain why the change is needed. Leaders often
communicate the “what” and “how” of change but neglect
to share the rationale behind it. “It’s easy to jump over
the ‘why,’ ” Patterson says. “The why is essential. It’s the
frst step in understanding the change process for any
Indeed, people want to know the organizational rea-
sons for the change—and they want to hear them from
senior leaders directly, according to Prosci research.
“It’s common for organizations to try to jump straight
to training,” Patterson says. But if employees don’t frst
understand the reason for the change, they’ll sit in the
back of the training room and tune out.
“The remedy to that is spending the time upfront,
communicating and sharing those reasons why … and
also equipping managers to help people build their desire
for a change.”
Don’t expect others to change if you don’t. In other
words, model the behavior you want to see others
exhibit. If you want to build a culture based on innovation, “your leaders better be doing that 24/7
because all eyes are on the leaders. That’s how
people know how to behave,” says Dean Anderson, CEO and founder of Being First Inc., a change
strategy consultancy in Durango, Colo. “If you’re
going to move toward openness and collaboration,
you better make sure that people are seeing that
in your executives.” That may require a signifcant
efort by executives because they have been operating in a diferent style for so many years.
Before helping a corporate client embark on
a major culture change, Anderson requires
senior leaders to participate in a four-day ofsite training session on leadership
“They need to be aware of what they’re
doing before they can change behavior. It’s
the frst step in the personal change pro-
cess,” he says. “If they don’t go through the
personal change, then under stress, they’ll default to the
old way of doing things,” and employees will follow suit.
Communicate early and often. Leaders often rely on
one-way, top-down communication, approaching employ-
ees only after key decisions have been made. But while
members of the senior team may have had months to
digest the information before accepting it, they frequently
fail to give employees time to do the same.
“The earlier you engage them, the earlier they work
through it. So, by the time you get to implementation
stage, they’re on board,” Anderson says.
A 2016 McKinsey Global Survey found that failure to
involve front-line employees and their managers was a
main reason that some transformations failed and others
Don’t try to do too much.
It’s easy to underestimate
the amount of work it
takes to conduct change
initiatives. Make sure you
plan out how employees
will be able to maintain
day-to-day operations while
implementing new products
“The same people who keep the
trains running are trying to get out in
front of the train to lay down new
track,” Anderson says.
To protect against change satura-
tion, a small but growing number of
organizations are taking a company-
wide approach and coordinating all the
changes taking place, using portfolio man-
agement techniques. The frst step, which is
more difcult than it sounds, is to record the
initiatives already under way, Patterson says.
Are they afecting the same employees? What
are their implementation deadlines?
Then, prioritize. Can you stagger the rollouts so the
same groups won’t be hit at the same time? Or elim-
inate some programs to free up time for more pressing
projects? Finally, build a process for determining which
proposed eforts the organization will commit to in the
future, Patterson advises.
While 73 percent of change leaders say they are near,
at or past saturation, only 41 percent are following the
holistic strategy and managing change within portfolios
as experts recommend, according to the Prosci survey
results. So, there’s a huge gap. But those who do approach
the issue broadly are getting better results.
“Senior leaders have the ability and the responsibility
to look at the whole picture,” Patterson says.
Dori Meinert is senior writer/editor of HR Magazine.
About 86 percent of 1,778
change leaders surveyed
expect the number of
change initiatives in their
organizations to increase
over the next two years.