If you can’t lead change, you can’t be a leader. It’s as simple as that. It is not an exaggeration to say that leaders at all levels must be able to effectively navigate change. But even though change is a fact of organizational life, the frequency and size of change is something that leaders are struggling with.
In our recent People Trends survey, we polled more than 300 HR professionals about various topics, including leaders’ common pitfalls. We found that the largest gap between organizational need and leadership performance was change management, with the need far outweighing the capability. Just 21 percent of leaders are managing change successfully. This low level of effectiveness in change management presents a significant challenge for organizations that are operating in a much more VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous) environment.
The process for managing change can be broken down into four broad stages, starting with determining the need for change and ending with sustaining change. As organizations move through the four stages, our research shows that their effectiveness begins to deteriorate, and they don’t start with a high level of performance to begin with.
Our survey also examined leaders’ effectiveness in specific activities necessary to manage change. Respondents indicated that for leaders to improve their ability to manage change they should focus on:
- Involving Others: Many leaders fail to engage others in identifying and solving challenges.
- Communicating More: Communicating the need for change and answering the inevitable question, “Why?”
- Establishing Clarity: Setting clear plans of action and accountability.
- Monitoring Implementation: Paying closer attention to the implementation of change and tackling any disagreements that occur.
- Adjusting: Plans often change, so effective leaders must be able to stay adaptable.