Delivering Change Successfully – Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them
You put the effort into the planning, creating a vision and devising a strategy, but the change you’re aiming for just isn’t happening. Sound familiar? We’re not surprised. According to the Project Management Institute 70% of projects don’t fully meet all their goals. So, what is so hard about actually delivering change? Our Managing Director, Lucy Trueman, reflects.
There are several models, theories and tools out there about managing change and projects. We’ve talked about many of them ourselves, which you can find on our website and social media channels. But often the theories don’t make the change happen. When we speak to senior managers, it is usually the act of getting it done that people struggle with, more than the thinking and planning behind it. Here are our thoughts and hopefully some helpful tips on what you can do to make that happen about skills, capacity and the hard slog!
Making change happen requires work
Often, the most overlooked part of delivering change is the actual work to make it happen. There are a range of tasks that need to be completed, (usually a lot of them), that will need input from lots of people from different teams and departments.. Leaders often spend a lot of time and investment in the early stages of projects and change programmes, which is crucial, but it’s common for them to underestimate the delivery side.
For example, a change journey bringing two organisations together would need a huge range of tasks:: thinking of a new name, designing a new brand and website,, figuring out what the staffing structure will look like, determining the legal complexities and formalities that need to be in place, engaging with the staff about what’s happening and what the future will look like and redesigning the processes and new ICT systems. When people are planning a change journey, it’s these kinds of tasks that they often realise, late in the game, that they didn’t factor in resource for.
Supporting organisations with additional capacity to deliver change is our core offer. We work with senior leadership teams to develop plans and map out what the future will look like, but most of the work we do is focussed on the delivery itself. We’ve designed structures, led staff engagement, facilitated decision-making around legal models and developed and introduced new processes, systems, and procedures.
It’s the hard slog of completing all these tasks that actually makes the change happen, not the visions and plans.
Work on your business rather than in your business
Our second tip is about the resilience of yourself as a leader and the resilience of your team. We tend to train leaders to be managers who deliver a product or service. We train them in management skills around resources, budgets and keeping services stable and reliable, , but it is rare that we train them in change other than on a superficial, hypothetical level. We must recognise that change work requires a very different mindset than delivering business as usual and it is very difficult to drive change when you’re in the weeds of a business, regardless of what department, organisation or sector you’re in.
The challenge here is to think about where your focus and skills are, and how you can carve out some time and head space for working on the business rather than working in the business. It’s a different mindset, and difficult to do both.
Do you allow yourself and your team the time to lift heads above the parapet and think about the future rather than just battling with today?
Clean your teeth
Our third and final tip is stolen from Simon Sinek, a famous business writer and the person responsible for the most watched video in the world. Simon compares leadership to the act of cleaning your teeth. What he means by that leadership is about more than one act: cleaning your teeth just once isn’t going to save you from that dentist’s chair! What you’ve got to do is clean your teeth every single day – you have to be consistent or it doesn’t work.
That’s what leading change is like. It’s not enough to spend some time on it just in the beginning, or part-way through or just before it’s going to happen – you have to commit to it to drive it forward and make it happen every day. Be honest with yourself and ask:
- What have you done today to drive your change forward?
- What did you do yesterday?
- What are you going to do tomorrow?
The key is in the commitment and the dedication to keep working on the change to get the results you want.
If the above rings true with you and you’re having difficulty making change happen, why not get in touch for an informal conversation? We may be able to help provide an extra pair of hands to work alongside you, take some of the stress away and help you get that change over the line.