How to Avoid Ineffectual Change

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Creating and managing change is at the forefront of what it means to be a leader.  Yet we seem to know so little about it in practice.  Here are my favorite three examples of dangerous myths about change that need to be retired immediately.

Myth 1

Change is the only constant; we need to change more – now!  Wrong.  Every organization has a finite change capacity.  Thanks to the false belief in constant and complete transformation, we take on thirty firm-wide change initiatives instead of five.  When you don’t have enough gas in the tank, you start to see burnout lingering throughout the office.  The average change project underperforms or fails completely, and a lot is due to lack of capacity.  The greatest know the truth – less is more:  five initiatives completed effectively trumps twenty with mediocre quality.

The average change project underperforms or fails completely, and a lot is due to lack of capacity.

Myth 2

Employees resist change.  While it is true based on personality that there are a small number of people who always resist change, they are rare.  The real reason we see resistance to change is because:  employees resist change they did not see coming, change they do not understand, change they don’t feel ready to deal with in terms of training and tools, and change they did not have any voice whatsoever in creating.  Give them a head’s up, the right resources, and some voice in the process – it’s shocking how willing they are to get on the bus.

Myth 3

When it is time to kick-off a needed change, you create urgency by using simple logical appeals driven by facts and figures – the “business case.”  Nope.  Logical appeals have never lit a fire under anyone.  The proper way to initiate change in order to create engaged listeners who feel urgency, is by using emotional hooks.  Think about the audio clip, the picture, the fact, the statistic, the story, or the video.  Don’t tell them that customers demand something new based on the data – show them the video of the irate customer!

The goal is to keep the troops engaged, wave after wave of change,

It’s true that change is a constant, but hopefully how we approach that reality isn’t.  The goal is to keep the troops engaged, wave after wave of change, and to have a high rate of success.  To do this, start thinking seriously about change capacity, how you involve employees in the change process, and how you can use simple emotions to make the point and get their attention.  Now you’re talking about change that will stick.

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Image credit: lawren / 123RF Stock Photo

Dr. Dewett is an author, professional speaker, recovering management professor, and Harley Davidson nut. His job is to build better leaders and teams. He is the author of The Little Black Book of Leadership. His unique brand of energetic leadership knowledge has resulted in quotes in the New York Times, BusinessWeek, Forbes, CNN, Investors Business Daily, USA Today, and hundreds of other outlets. After beginning his career with Andersen Consulting and Ernst & Young, he has since spoken to and advised thousands of professionals around the world. Get to know Todd by visiting his home online at drdewett.com, his popular courses at Lynda.com, and his TEDx talk on YouTube.

  • Miguel

    Myth 3 reminds me that change management is a sales job. People buy (or buy in) with their emotions. They also need the “what’s in it for me” factor. If you can’t think of a real benefit to the employee, then maybe that’s a clue you should rethink about the change.

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  • Renee G

    I love myth 2 – so true!

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