Why Companies Fail at Implementing Change

Brian Nolan, President, Summit Services, Inc.

I recently read a book called Leading Change by John P. Kotter.  A couple of things jumped out at me as being very relevant for small business owners and managers.

There was a chapter dedicated to why companies fail at implementing change. Two of the main reasons were:

  1. Under communicating the vision by a factor of 10 (or even 100…. or 1000)
  2. Failing to create short-term wins.

Kotter spends a great deal of timing talking about the importance of continually communicating the vision to employees, both in words and deeds and in as many interactions as possible. Major change is usually impossible unless most employees are willing to help, often to the point of making short-term sacrifices. Without credible communication, and a lot of it, employees’ hearts and minds are never captured. It’s not enough to read it once at a company meeting (although that’s the start!). The vision must be kept “top of mind” and be constantly incorporated in your communications and decisions. I encourage you all to keep your company visions close by and incorporate pieces of it in your weekly meetings.

In Summit, we talk about getting some small victories. This will create a feeling of accomplishment in your company and show them that you are committed to walking the talk. Focus on one project (or maybe only two). Communicate the project to the company. Explain how it ties into the vision. Plan it, do it, and celebrate it. Kotter talks about short-term wins as more than luck. I have always known luck as opportunity coming together with preparation. Short-term wins come about through planning, organizing, and implementing the plan to make things happen. The point is to make sure that visible results lend sufficient credibility to the change effort, which includes creating a focused organization. Have you picked your one or two projects that will give you the early victories you need to sustain change? Have you planned them before you started doing them? Have you communicated these plans to the organization?

“Discipline is remembering what you want.” Our organizations will thank us if we maintain the discipline to focus and accomplish one or two things at a time. You will reach your summit (your vision) in time, one base camp at a time.

Have a great week!

Brian Nolan

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