Colleague Corner Featuring: R. Kendall Lyman and Tony C. Daloisio "The Change Dilemma"
Business and organizational change efforts of any significant magnitude have proven to be ineffective in realizing their goals. Research indicates that 70% of change efforts fail. Leading change has become as integral to a leader’s success as managing the balance sheet or implementing a new customer service program. Yet most leaders lack a complete picture of how change happens. Too many continue to tinker with tactics and short-term fixes while hoping for transformation and long-term improvement. Many leaders are still asking others to engage and change without really understanding how to do that themselves. All too often leaders are rewarded for doing their “day job,” so they haphazardly lead change “on the side.” This results in change feeling fragmented, complicated, or theoretical by those on the front line—those who are required to implement the change.
Consequently, leaders need a more efficient and effective means to successfully implement change in an ever escalating, fast-paced environment requiring innovation and streamlined productivity. However, the “Change Dilemma” that we see leaders experiencing over and over again is that while a deeper, more engaging, and comprehensive approach is needed to improve the trajectory of the change effort’s success, the business environment tricks them to cut corners and apply a fast and efficient approach. But the fast approach doesn’t have time to deal with issues of effectiveness, human relationships, and the emotional cycle of change. No wonder 70% of change efforts don’t yield desired results. Leaders who fall victim to the “fast” approach, are betting that a multitude of transactional change approaches, done efficiently, will add up to organizational transformation. Our experience has proven this is just not true.
To the trained eye, it is intuitive to recognize that fast and efficient change does not work. This limited approach does not cultivate the level of commitment, trust, skills, and aligned processes needed for the managers and workers charged with implementing the change vision. Unfortunately, leaders continue to hope for different results while relentlessly applying the same change process and practices that they have used for years. What is needed is for leaders to clarify the need for change and then determine the best approach given the factors the leadership team is facing.
We have developed a Change Map that guides leaders to diagnose and prescribe an optimal approach to achieve change. Questions that change leaders should ask to help resolve the change dilemma include: What type of change are we dealing with? How many stakeholders need to be involved? How should planning take place? How complex is this change? And how should the change be rolled out? The graphic below demonstrates how there isn’t just one solution but a spectrum of options that can work to create a more holistic and effective approach to change.
A “fast” approach to change is usually incomplete. Until leaders adopt a new approach—one that looks at all relevant factors of the organization, how teams are working, and individual behavior change—their results will be elusive, left to chance, and doomed to similar low success rates. In addition, change fatigue and employee skepticism will increase, reducing the chance for sustainable change and real competitive advantage. Great leaders of change positively impact business performance by fundamentally approaching change differently from most leaders in how they think about change, how they engage both individuals and the organization, and the roles they play. In any other profession, a 70% failure rate would be unacceptable. It’s time we make it so in the professional ranks of leadership! Voters, boards of directors, employees, and customers are all screaming for change. If they are not in your industry, they soon will be. The only way to survive as a leader in the twenty-first century is to make change part of your leadership agenda. And that means making it a priority and getting good at it.
Sun Tzu, a military general and philosopher said: “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before the defeat.” The “sucker’s choice” is for leaders to opt for fast and efficient change because the business or environment seems to be demanding “immediate change.” We’re not saying that leaders shouldn’t move quickly. However, as Sun Tzu advises, a series of tactics aimed to quickly and efficiently change the team or organization that aren’t strategically integrated to create a holistic and lasting change will become a slow route that yields only a 30% success rate.