The idea behind change management leadership is straightforward, as is the role of leadership in change management initiatives. So why do 70% of US organizational change management plans fall short? And what can you do to avert those failures [1]?

There are reasons for US companies failing in their change efforts. Much of it starts with miscommunication from the top down. Another cause is organizations continue to rely on methodologies dating back to the predigital era. Thus, the foundation needs a fresh approach to change management training and newer technologies.

This article examines a more modern slant to organizational change initiatives. It illustrates how you, as a leader, can get everyone enthused and onside. You will see how to drive your company forward by focusing more on people than processes.

Why Change Management Needs to Modify

US businesses have always had to adjust to keep up with the times. But the pace of change has gotten much faster and more frequent. Today we have constant innovation, technology updates, and a constant connection to economic globalization. So it’s not a case of change for change’s sake but a necessity. Moreover, change management must work seamlessly with change leadership.

Change Management Vs. Change Leadership

They sound similar, and both play a crucial role. But the differences between change management and leadership are fundamental. The former refers to the tools, mechanisms, and processes designed to keep people on board and the project within budget. And change leadership is focused on mobilizing people and resources while executing the plan.

Tactics for Successful Change Management Leadership

People and processes must adapt whenever a company undergoes in-house or external changes. The updated tactics below will help lay the foundation for a successful transition.

Communicate and Collaborate

Tactics for Successful Change Management Leadership - EWF International

This critical first step is to align all leaders involved in the process around the strategic goals. Your company’s ambitions must be clear from the outset, and all parties must know the scale of those forthcoming changes. Now is a great time to answer questions as you outline what the change will mean to specific individuals, teams, and departments.

Put People Before Project Management & Processes

Much of the failure is change management leadership stumbling as it leaps from strategy to execution. It sounds logical, but on closer inspection, the jump from strategy to execution often bypasses preparing the people who will feel the impact of those changes.

The roles and responsibilities of workers often need to adapt to changes. That could mean employee training to ensure a smooth transition (more on people solutions next).

Who Needs to Know?

Introducing new technologies and processes without a supportive chain of command is a mistake. You must keep everyone in the loop who is affected by and needs to adjust to the changes. If the new way of business is significant, that will involve most people from the top down.
A top-down leadership structure looks something like this:

  • The change management team
  • Change leadership team
  • Middle managers & supervisors
  • All affected employees

Fill in any gaps in the list above as they pertain to your organization—for example, department heads, regional directors, vendors, etc.

When People Change, Organizations Change
Failure to prepare, equip, and guide people may lead to internal resistance. A top-down organizational change without supporting and pulling the people within the company across the finish line is setting itself up to fail.

Recognize the Type and Impact of Change

Do you plan a complete company transformation or only a small change? Who will it affect—specifically—and in what ways?

Remember, there can be no one-size-fits-all strategy. The processes and people involved will vary depending on multiple factors. But the humble checklist is still the best foundation for organizing even the most complex plans.

There are two parts, the technical side and the people side of change. The technological updates include design, development, and delivery. While for people, the focus is on preparing workers and stakeholders so that they can adapt and execute the results.
The graphic below illustrates the point.

Successful Outcomes Rely on Strong Leadership

Employees under the charge of change leaders look for inspiration, clarity, and guidance. But change initiatives fail when leaders don’t embrace the people who will most feel the impact of new systems and procedures. That’s why strong leadership is critical for a successful, long-term outcome [2].

Why Inspirational Leadership Matters

Strong leaders have many qualities, and few are as crucial as the ability to inspire others. It matters because negative employee attitudes are responsible for up to 70% of failed change initiatives. Thus, an uninspiring leader has little chance of altering the mindset of a resistant workforce [3].


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Employees Need Leaders to Lead

Leaders drive workplace cultures that often need to transform with significant change. And their views, behaviors, and words can make or break attitudes [4].
Here’s a breakdown of the three major causes of failed change initiatives:

  • 33% suggest management behavior does not support change
  • 39% of employees are resistant to change
  • 14% cite inadequate resources and or budget
  • 14% note various other obstacles

You Are Not Alone

The long-term failure rates of change management are high. It’s a widespread problem, rooted in old traditions and procedures that no longer work. The way to avoid the change failure is to invest in excellent leadership development programs and resources like those offered by EWF International. These modern developments use the latest research, strategies, and technology to tackle the unique issues facing corporate change and leadership today.

What the Failure Data Tells You

The failed initiative data above is invaluable. It tells you that people-related issues cause 72% of the resistance to change, while 28% stems from other causes. Now that you know the problems, determining what solutions to apply becomes easier. Teamwork from the top-down is essential for a successful outcome. And if your company warrants it, consider assigning someone the role of resistance manager.

Resistance Manager?

A successful resistance manager is a highly effective and much-respected leader. They are excellent communicators and role models for those under them. This person identifies employees most resistant to change and strives to bring them onboard. When equipped with the proper skills, the task can become a box-checking exercise.
The role of a resistance manager typically involves the following:

  • Identify employees who are resistant to change
  • Listen to concerns; address them through open, frank discussions
  • Emphasize the WIIFM (what’s in it for me) benefits they will enjoy
  • Address resistance with positive reinforcement tactics
  • Deliver feedback to relevant change teams

Remember, resistance to change is not confined to a single strata of employees. The opposition to your program can materialize from senior management down to the menial staff.

What Happens When Companies Don’t Innovate?

Many high-profile brands lost their market share because they didn’t transform when the competitors around them did. Below are seven major US companies that lost out because they got complacent.

  1. Sears, Roebuck, and Co. (department store chain)
  2. BlackBerry (smartphone/ tablets brand)
  3. RadioShack (electronics store chain)
  4. Pan American World Airways (Pan Am)
  5. MySpace (the most popular social network before Facebook)
  6. Kodak (photography company founded in 1892)
  7. Blockbuster (video & game rentals)

The rules apply to all companies of any size. Businesses that do not modernize—or get it wrong—lose their competitive edge, stagnate, and eventually fail.

The Change Management Leadership Readiness Checklist

To conclude this piece we have provided a basic checklist template for Change Management Leadership. It’s a self-assessment form to test for change leadership readiness. The scoring is based on a standard five-answer rating system for speed and convenience.

Every company and individual has unique conditions, so remember to adapt the questions as they relate to your circumstances.

Rate readiness as follows: 1 (Strongly Disagree), 2 (Disagree), 3(Neutral), 4(Agree), 5 (Strongly Agree)
See the end of the page for an interpretation of this checklist.

Theoretical & Behavioral Foundation

QuestionsRating
I know how to manage employee reactions and resistance to change.12345
I realize the concept of how to manage change transitions.12345
I can show genuine empathy to those affected or resistant to change.12345
I am open to conversations and concerns around change.12345
I have experience successfully leading complex change initiatives.12345

Organizational Change Communication

QuestionsRating
I am fully aware of all the people these changes impact.12345
I can articulate reasons and goals for change initiatives.12345
I am qualified to answer questions my team has about the changes.12345
I can articulate the precise roles of those impacted by the changes.12345

Change Support Networks

QuestionsRating
I believe this change is needed for my company at this time.12345
I am confident my team and I will benefit from this change.12345
I’ve had the chance to voice any concerns about this change.12345

Commitment to Change

QuestionsRating
I have developed a plan of action to support the changeover.12345
I agree to contribute to the change as needed/requested.12345
I agree to apply this change to my daily work as appropriate.12345
I agree to remove any barriers that may otherwise hinder this change.12345

How to Score Your Change leadership Readiness

Any scores of strongly disagree (1), disagree (2), or neutral (3) suggest a lack of readiness. Thus, a successful score has agree (4) and strongly agree (5) for all 16 questions. You may wish to work with a change manager/leader to improve your score or consider career and business coaching services to build your strengths.


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  1. https://www.mckinsey.com/70%-change-management-failure/
  2. https://www.torbenrick.eu/barriers-to-organizational-change/
  3. https://www.frontiersin.org/resistant-workforce/
  4. https://www.linkedin.com/why-change-management-fails/