Change Failures

While Decker et al. (2012) examined the implementation failure rate of projects and concluded that the failure rate is likely between 50% and approximately 70%, the real issue remains. Why do change initiatives fail?

The reasons for failure are easily associated with failing to follow the advice presented in this book. If a change project has an imperfect vision of the organization's result and value, people will not support the project. If the change plan is not aligned with the organization's goals or is underfunded, it will likely fail. If the change manager fails to provide well-crafted messages to the organization about the change initiative and generate vested interest within the organizational culture, the project will likely fail. Possessing insufficient resources to accomplish the change initiative is one of the most fundamental reasons for failure.

Since people are the drivers of any change, they are also the most critical of resources. Change fatigue is common because managers do not always consider it as an issue in the change process. Managers look at what a worker has "on their plate," and determines the availability of that person for a project. The manager overlooks the mental, emotional, and physical strain placed on a person when working on complex change initiatives. For instance, if a three-people team is developing a change plan to implement a business continuity standard at their organization and there are expectations from some leaders that the project completion date will occur within a year, there is a strong possibility that the team will experience change fatigue.

Summary

The importance of overcoming resistance to change associated with an organizational project, program component, or another change initiative cannot be overstated. The success of a significant project may hang in the balance, and any resistance to the proposed change must be identified and addressed before the actual change implementation. Any change that is identified during the implementation phase of the project will necessitate a resolution. Change is an essential activity within an organization seeking to maintain a competitive edge over other organizations, as well as maintaining the necessary flexibility during emergencies.

Addressing the specifics of overcoming resistance to change should be of great interest to practitioners seeking direct methods to accomplish the desired goal. The practical application of these methods should assist in real-world implementation toward affecting resistance to change. In particular, the disciplines of business, security, emergency, and disaster management will benefit from the knowledge of addressing resistance to change. These disciplines seek improvements in implementing various initiatives aimed at achieving risk management, emergency preparedness, or organizational effectiveness.

Organizational change and any associated resistance are not necessarily constant or uniform in rationale. Resistance may come from various levels of the organization and may be the result of various concerns of organizational members (e.g., Blank, 1990; Agocs, 1997; Lane, McCormack, & Richardson, 2013). Resistance to change may come from institutional resistance to change (Agocs, 1997), poor implementation of the change initiative by the project/program manager (Gilley, Gilley, & McMillan, 2009), from a sense of general organizational uncertainty about the change (Kennedy, 2011), or resistance by senior leadership to avoid the unknown risk of potential opportunity (Lane et al., 2013). Palmer (2004) confirms that change failures are caused by human actions, or lack of action, and not by technical issues. Therefore, resistance to change may occur throughout an organization with the members of the organization at the heart of the issue. General uncertainty about a change initiative may result from cynicism, dubious trust of leadership, and the employee's lack the confidence in each other (Kennedy, 2011).

Stanley, Meyer, and Topolnytsky (2005) identify the difference between skeptical resistance to proposed change (doubt in the project) and cynical resistance to the change (doubt or mistrust in management). According to Gilley et al. (2009), many change initiatives fail because the person leading the change fails to properly motivate and communicate with the organizational employers, thereby facilitating resistance to change and the failure of the initiative. Individual involvement throughout the organization affects change.

Self-leadership is the ability of an individual to generate the necessary self-motivation and self-direction to achieve goals and is more than just avoiding violations of external standards; it is the internalization of being the decision-maker of the rationale for the standards, thereby having a significant influence on any resistance to change (Neck, 1996). Resistance is a fundamental issue of any project that must be addressed at the beginning of the project. Failure to gain management support will doom the project to failure (Leflar & Siegel, 2013).

The methods for overcoming resistance to change are varied to allow for the differences in the rationale for resistance. Flexibility is an important aspect of overcoming resistance; organizations are complex, and the methods to address problems must be varied.

Avey et al. (2008) proposed that positive emotional feelings and attitudes may well address the issue of resistance to change based on cynicism. Investing in the necessary resources, such as teams of trusted employees and managers devoted to the change initiative will aid in avoiding a self-perpetuating cycle of cynicism involving employees and management (Stanley et al., 2005). Also, Holt et al. (2009) recommended approaches like small focus groups in which open dialogue is established (distributing information but also listening) with particular attention to asking why the change may have failed, but this must be communicated with sincerity, honesty, and commitment to the importance of the change. The free exchange of information will help establish the benefit, need, and importance of the change to all involved (Holt et al., 2009).

Kennedy (2011) proposed addressing resistance to change in the form of self-improvement on the part of the employees through personal acceptance of responsibility for positive organizational participation. Personal association with an initiative is similar to the proposed risk management self-responsibility approach discussed by Leflar and Siegel (2013). Rochet, Keramidas, and Bout (2008) discussed the value of using an actual crisis as a means to successfully implement change through a systems perspective of opportunity to learn and overcome the resistance to change.

According to Rudes (2007), to achieve the best chance at successfully implementing a change, it is necessary to gain the support and involvement of middle management. This middle tier of the employee can balance relationships between the top and bottom of the organization and facilitate a better understanding of the goals of the change and how best to implement the change successfully (Rudes, 2007). Palmer (2004) recommended the use of a seven-method approach to addressing and preventing resistance to change. The seven elements are leading change, creating a shared need, shaping a vision, mobilizing commitment, monitoring progress, finishing the job, and anchoring the change in systems and structures (Palmer, 2004). These seven approaches are essentially a firm understanding of systems management and effective project management.

If a change project has an imperfect vision of the result and value to the organization, people will not support the project. If the change plan is not aligned with the organization's goals or is underfunded, it is likely to fail. If the change manager fails to provide well-crafted messages to the organization about the change initiative and generate vested interest within the organizational culture, the project will likely fail. Possessing insufficient resources to accomplish the change initiative is one of the most fundamental reasons for failure. Since people are the drivers of any change, they are also the most critical of resources. Change fatigue is common because managers do not always consider it as an issue in the change process. The manager overlooks the mental, emotional, and physical strain placed on a person when working on complex change initiatives.

References

Agocs, C. (1997). Institutionalized resistance to organizational change: Denial, inaction and repression. Journal of Business Ethics, 16(9), 917-931.

Avey, J. B., Wernsing, T. S., & Luthans, F. (2008). Can positive employees help positive organizational change? Impact of psychological capital and emotions on relevant attitudes and behaviors. The journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 44(1), 48-70.

Blank, R. E. (1990). Gaining acceptance: The effective presentation of new ideas. Total Quality Management, 1(1), 69-73.

Coughlan, D., & Rashford, N. (2006). Organizational change and strategy/: An interlevel dynamics approach. New York, NY: Routledge.

Decker, R, Durand, R., Mayfield, C. O., McCormack, C, Skinner, D., & Perdue, G. (2012). Predicting implementation failure in organization change. Journal of Organizational Culture, Communications and Conflict, 16(2), 29^9.

Diamond, M. A. (1992). Hobbesian and Rousseauian identities: The psychodynamics of organizational leadership and change. Administration & Society, 24(3), 267-289.

Gilley, A., Gilley, J. W., & McMillan, H. S. (2009). Organizational change: motivation, communication, and leadership effectiveness. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 21(4), 75-94.

Holt, D. T., Dorey, E. L., Bailey, L. C, & Low, B. R. (2009). Recovering when a change initiative stalls. OD Practitioner, 41(1), 20-24.

Kennedy, D. (2011). Moving beyond uncertainty: Overcoming our resistance to change. Leader to Leader, 62,17-21.

Lane, К. E., McCormack, T. J., & Richardson, M. D. (2013). Resilient leaders: Essential for organizational innovation. International Journal of Organizational Innovation, 6(2), 7-25.

Leflar, J., & Siegel, M. (2013). Organizational resilience: Managing the risks of disruptive events - a practitioner's guide. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.

Neck, C. P. (1996). Thought self-leadership: A self-regulatory approach towards overcoming resistance to organizational change. International Journal of Organizational Analysis (1993 - 2002), 4(2), 202.

Nord, W. R., Jermier, J. M. (1994). Overcoming resistance to resistance: Insights from a study of the shadows. Public Administration Quarterly, 17(4), 396.

Palmer, B. (2004). Overcoming resistance to change. Quality Progress, 37(4), 35-39.

Rochet, C, Keramidas, O., & Bout, L. (2008). Crisis as change strategy in public organizations. International Review of Administrative Sciences, 74(1), 65-77.

Rudes, D. (2007, January). Tied response to organizational change. [Paper presentation]. American Sociological Association, New York, NY, United States.

Stanley, D. J., Meyer, J. P., & Topolnytsky, L. (2005). Employee cynicism and resistance to organizational change. Journal of Business & Psychology, 19(4), 429—159.

Wart, M. (2004). A comprehensive model of organizational leadership: The leadership action cycle. International Journal of Organization Theory and Behavior, 7(2), 173-208.

Exercises

1. Instilling Risk Management within the Corporate Culture

Angelique has been assigned to enhance the organizational resilience of her company. She decides to begin by creating a culture of risk management at the firm. Since she studied change management at school, she has a good idea of where to begin building employee interest and engagement. How do you think Angelique should begin developing an employee culture of risk management involvement and responsibility?

2. Engaging Employees

Aziz works in the facilities management department of his company. His job is to work around and look for facilities-related problems each morning. His goal is to get a jump on any problems before they become severe and contribute to an accident. Aziz wants to be more efficient in his job. He wants to involve the employees on his regular route of the building. From a change management perspective, how should Aziz engage the employees so that the goal of involvement and increased reporting of problems occurs?

Part 2

4

Leadership Involvement

 
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