- By Nancy DeViney
Change may be essential to progress, but no one said it was easy.
As anyone who has worked on a major transformation project will tell you, organizational and culture change issues invariably present the biggest challenges.
Redesigning processes, deploying new technologies, reformatting the org chart, you can get all that right but still stumble if you don’t get your people on board. One McKinsey study found that only about 30 percent of change programs succeed. The Number 1 stumbling block: behavior and attitudes failed to change.
Several years ago, IBM conducted an internal study to investigate what has worked and not worked in large-scale transformation initiatives. The types of challenges identified were relatively consistent across the 10 projects we studied. In fact, since then clients have told me that they encounter similar issues. The most common reasons for uneven adoption or difficulty sustaining change?
- Changes to the strategy, design, or implementation plan were made without thinking through the impact;
- Changes were not plumbed far back enough into the business to make them stick;
- Required behavior changes were never addressed – it was assumed those impacted would simply “get on board.”
To address these recurring issues, we revised our transformation playbook. We established an organizational change center of excellence to train and support change program leaders who are embedded into the project teams of all major initiatives. We see addressing the people side of change as a key factor in the success of IBM’s ongoing transformation.
Organizational change management is an evolving discipline, and we certainly don’t claim to have all the answers. But we have developed and refined a consistent approach that we’ve applied to instituting change in strategy, process, the introduction of new tools and technologies to our workforce, acquisitions and other major enterprise situations. Based on our experience, we’ve found three operating principles essential for building a successful enterprise change management program:
1) Build a sustainable change capability. We’ve deployed a common method and toolkit that provides our leaders and teams with proven techniques for staging and managing change. We stepped up our change leadership curriculum for leaders and change management training for project managers. We now offer learning modules for all employees to help them better understand their own orientation toward change. We also created an on-line community for change practitioners that now has thousands of members who share their experiences, ideas and lessons learned. It’s important to build pervasive change capabilities into the fabric of the organization.
2) Leverage analytics for employee insights. Today’s sophisticated analytics tools are giving change management experts better data to assist leaders as they implement programs. At IBM, for example, we are capturing feedback from impacted employees to measure how well they understand a change initiative, how committed they are to it, how equipped they feel to implement the new approach, and other key indicators of change readiness. We roll up this information in a consumable dashboard format that helps leaders pinpoint potential issues and what needs to be addressed to improve adoption and business impact.
3) Give employees a voice. As our culture has become more collaborative, we’ve learned that you can’t mandate change. Engaging employees to tap into their creative energy to help shape change is key. Many firms are focused on social business strategies for deepening client relationships, but overlook the transformative potential of social tools for their own workforce. On her first day as IBM’s new CEO, Ginni Rometty established an online community to engage employees across the globe on the strategic beliefs she has put forward as priorities for the company. The forum is ongoing – stimulating ideas and feedback from IBMers across the organization – and giving employees the opportunity to shape the next chapter of IBM’s transformation.
Transformation is always a journey. It never happens overnight. But we’ve learned that leaders who engage and energize their employees in change drive real commitment versus mere compliance. The organizations achieving the best results are making the boldest moves – and making them pay off through smarter change management.