Change initiatives

Revolutionizing Change Initiatives

Thursday, May 12, 2016

In my previous blog post on organizational change, I discussed the number of changes you can expect this year. Because 70 percent of change initiatives end in failure, this follow-up post provides change agents with strategies to improve their success rate.

Part of the reason why so many change initiatives end in failure is that 18 percent of organizations do not know what strategies they should use to manage the change process. ATD and the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) completed a research report, sponsored by NYU Stern, that discovered several key findings about managing change. The report was based on a survey of 765 business and learning professionals across the globe in a variety of industries.

Study participants were asked: “What strategies does your learning function implement or plan to implement to improve your effectiveness in change management training?” Here, we highlight some of the strategies favored by those organizations rated as effective at change management. 

Include the External Experts 

The majority of professionals prefer to use internal resources during the change management process. However, there may be benefits to looking outside. Organizations effective at managing looked for four types of external resources:

  1. subject matter experts
  2. designers and developers
  3. tools
  4. technology.

Using external SMEs for the change management process was correlated with improved market performance. There was a negative correlation to learning and change effectiveness when people failed to look outside their organization during the change process.
Instead of including the same old leaders during the change process, take a holistic look at the players inside and outside your organization and consider the benefits each person or department would bring by being involved in the change process. 


Change the Change Process 

In the report, 28 percent of organizations wanted to implement different methods of change management training, 21 percent hoped to redesign change management training content, and 17 percent wanted to change the timeframe for delivering training on specific change initiatives. These data suggest that at least 66 percent of organizations recognize the need to adjust their change management training process.

“Until recently an organization addressed changes one at a time, using fundamental tools and processes. Change teams had time to follow an eight-step process, gather data, and create a vision for each change project,” explains Elaine Biech in Change Management Training. “We continue to implement a change management approach that was designed for single-issue changes. But the VUCA environment allows us neither the time nor the ease to rely on a set of basic tools any longer.”

In fact, with change happening more rapidly than ever, companies need to put change training initiatives at the forefront of their strategic plans to maintain sustainability. For instance, to begin these training initiatives, talent development professionals may want to demonstrate how change initiatives align with business goals to begin creating buy-in for the proposed new process

Get Motivated! 

During the research process, participants were asked open-ended questions regarding best practices for motivating employees to not only tolerate change, but embrace it and become proactive change agents. Organizational leaders provided insider tips for persuading, empowering, and engaging change agents. Here’s what they said:

  • “Show them what’s in it for them—they have to see the personal benefits.”—senior vice president of learning in the airline industry 
  • “Typically, small but meaningful incentives got people excited about a topic and involved more learning.”—senior director of organizational change management 
  • “It’s not talking but doing that makes a difference in the performance of a team.”—Walter McFarland, author of Choosing Change 
  • “Celebrate and recognize early adaptors of change to build momentum.”—leader in global food product company

Looking for more insights on managing change? Make sure to check out the full research report, Change Agents: The Role of Organizational Learning in Change Management, for a complete analysis of organizational change.

About the Author

Clara Von Ins is the Human Capital Specialist at the Association for Talent Development (ATD). Prior to working for ATD, Clara worked for the American Red Cross as the disaster program coordinator in Santa Barbara, California.

Clara received an bachelor’s degree from the Ohio State University in psychology and education. She is currently attending the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill remotely to obtain a master’s degree in public administration with an emphasis on nonprofit management and community and economic development. 

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