Leader Volume 9, Number 12
Biggest Mistakes in Managing Change
Goman is president of Kinsey Consulting Services, Berkeley, CA,
specializing in developing "change-adept" organizations
and individuals. She is author of eight business books, including This
Isn't the Company I Joined and The
Human Side of High-Tech: Lessons from the Technology Frontier
(John Wiley & Sons, New York, NY, 1998, 2000).
Phone 510-526-1727; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.ckg.com.
From working with
executives and managers, I’ve seen how management of change
impacts a work force. Here
are the biggest mistakes in managing change -- and the lessons
understanding the importance of people. 60-75 percent of all
restructuring failed -- not because of strategy, but because of
the "human dimension." Michael Hammer, author of Reengineering
the Corporation said, "I wasn't smart enough about
people. I was reflecting my engineering background and was
insufficiently appreciate of the human dimension. I've learned
appreciating that people throughout the organization have
different reactions to change.
Confident people are self-motivated, have high self-esteem, and
are willing to take risks. Quite simply, they know how good they
With any change, the danger of possible reversals coexists with
incredible opportunities for personal and professional success.
Leaders need employees to be excited by the opportunities in
change. When change-adept people are asked for verbal images they
associate with change, they acknowledge the stress, uncertainty,
pressure, and disruption, but they also emphasize the benefits --
the opportunity, growth, adventure, excitement and challenge.
3. Coping. Some people are naturally more flexible and better at
coping with, and adapting to, a complex, fast-paced reality than
others. These individuals take charge of change by accepting
responsibility and assuming control. To be successful in chaotic
times, the trick is not to brace yourself for change, but to
loosen up and learn how to roll with it. In your organization,
strategies will be planned, announced, implemented, and then--
right in the middle of execution -- they will all too often have
to be altered or aborted because of external changes. What leaders
need from employees is the ability to commit to a course of action
and, at the same time, to stay flexible enough to quickly alter
behavior and attitude.
Counterbalance. Those who are most resilient not only have a job
-- they have a life. Change-adept individuals compensate for the
demands and pressures of business by developing counterbalancing
activities in other areas of their lives. They engage in exercise
programs and healthful eating habits, they cultivate interests
outside of business -- sports, hobbies, art, music, etc. -- which
are personally fulfilling, and they have sources of emotional
support. Because employees with counterbalance have a life that
includes both work and recreation, they handle stress better and
are more effective on the job.
Buckminster Fuller once said, "Everyone is born a genius.
Society de-geniuses them." Change-adept professionals have
survived the de-geniusing of society to remain curious, creative,
and innovative. You can easily spot creative people in
organizations. They are the employees who are constantly seeking
ways to improve products, services, or themselves. Typically, they
question rules and regulations, and contribute ideas beyond the
limits of their job descriptions -- to other functions, to other
departments, and to the organization as a whole. These creative
employees solicit diverse opinions that generate new thoughts, and
they value any business experience that exposes them to new
knowledge and skills.
transformation as an event, rather than a mental, physical and
emotional process. Lacking "emotional literacy" we
disregarded the wrenching emotional process of large-scale change
-- and when we began to address the emotional component, we
underestimated its depth.
less than candid. Under the rationale of
"protecting" people, we presented change with a too
positive "spin." And the more we
"sugar-coated" the truth, the wider the trust gap grew
between management and the work force.
appropriately "setting the stage" for change. All
too often, change was announced in an environmental vacuum, with
little reason or rationale for what the organization was trying to
accomplish and how this change fits into the corporate vision.
to manage transformation with the same strategies used for
to negotiate the new "compact" between employers and
employees. The result was that people knew what they were
losing, but didn't have a clear picture of what to expect in its
that change-communication was what employees heard or read from
corporate headquarters. So we focused our attention on
speeches, newsletters, videos, and email -- only to find out that,
from an employee's perspective, the kind of communication that
impacts behavior is 10 percent "traditional" vehicles,
45 percent organizational structure (whatever punishes or rewards)
and 45 percent management behavior.
human potential. And when we underestimated potential, we
wasted it. This was
our worst mistake.