Avoiding common pitfalls in change management initiatives

Pursuing change at your organization will always carry a certain degree of risk. The more drastic the change, the more opportunities resistors have to poke holes in plans and slow progress. However, with the proper foresight, change leaders can mitigate risks and remove potential roadblocks before they derail the transition and diminish your organization's competitive potential. 

One of the most important elements to address in organizational change management is creating support among all levels of the organization. When the benefits of change are only discussed among the c-suite, teams will question why their daily routines have been interrupted. If middle management don't have the answers, or have not been convinced of the need for change themselves, resistance to change can take root. For more information on the pivotal role middle management plays in change efforts, you can read our previous piece here

To ensure the proper support, it is crucial that teams be involved in the change process as early as possible. It is often beneficial to include team members in the project planning stage, as they can provide in-the-trenches insight that may not be available to senior leadership. 

A lack of training is another common roadblock that can hold back change efforts. It is both unfair and ineffective to ask professionals to change their processes, values or goals without first showing them how. Existing training programs should be considered, if applicable, but the training should reflect the goals of the change efforts and share insight on the motivation for change. 

It can be beneficial to consider possible course descriptions and set objectives, then seek feedback from change leaders on how well the training relates to their vision. It is important to focus on the specific skills needed for progress, which team members should be able to help identify. 

Two-way feedback is also required for successful change, but can often be confused with progress updates. Instead of simply reporting on the accomplishment of specific milestones, change leaders should dig into how the change was received, and try to gain insight on how to increase buy-in for future efforts. This is only possible when there are open channels of two-way feedback in place, and managers feel comfortable reporting both successes and failures to leadership. It is always better to err on the side of too much communication, rather than the alternative.

Theres are only a small glimpse of some of the challenges that can arise if change initiatives are not approached properly. Seeking change management consulting before beginning change efforts can help protect investments and bring about the desired change in a more streamlined and cost-effective manner.