Linda and I have been in Copenhagen for a week, and will be here for another. We are launching the Danish translation of Beyond Change Management, doing media interviews, speaking to classes at the Copenhagen Business School, working with Valcon, our consulting strategic partner in Scandinavia, and generally having a blast! I was here a year ago as well, and love the fact that I can generally find my way around Copenhagen without too much difficulty.
Yesterday was the book launch at Gyldendal, our publisher. They are the largest publishing house in Denmark, and have been publishing books since 1770. We spoke to 50 executives, managers and change consultants, and it was a joy to watch most of them walk away with a book in hand. The day before we spoke to another group of 50 CEO’s, COO’s and other senior executives from Scandinavia’s largest and most prominent corporations and the government. This group was convened by invitation only from Valcon’s client list.
In both groups, as well as in the executive class at the Copenhagen Business School, we were over-joyed to witness the deep interest in conscious change leadership. It seems that leaders here are seeing the same thing that others across the globe are beginning to realize – transformation is complicated, and even though we desire simple methods to navigate its challenges, simple doesn’t work.
IBM’s 2008 Making Change Work Study revealed that 59% of change efforts failed when measured by time, cost and quality criteria. This is a similar finding by research studies ten years ago. What does this tell us? Basically, that the common approaches to change are not working. Both leaders and the workforce are stretched to the max, and there is little workload capacity for change. So, leaders keep cutting corners and opting for the simplest change management approaches they can find, and they consistently fail. The human and capital costs of such failures are astonomical. It’s time to change our approaches to change.
Complicated and complex approaches are not the answer either. No one has the time, resources, or patience for them. They’d cause just as much failure, but for other reasons. Mostly, they’d over-burden the organization and the people in it, and consume far too many resources.
The answer is simple: be willing to do whatever it takes to SUCCEED, as simply as possible. But don’t cut corners and cause failure because failure wastes resources and is the most costly approach of all! Here’s an effective way to proceed.
First, start with a change process methodology that attends to all the content, people and change process dyanamics at play in an integrated manner. That way there will be no duplication of effort, nor anything over-looked. Second, make sure you can customize the approach to each and every change effort because no two are ever alike. Third, do your customization and select the change tasks from the change process methodology that you absolutely know you must do, and leave out the rest, i.e., make it as simple as possible. Fourth, monitor your change plan and add, delete, and modify as you proceed and new dynamics emerge. This is critical. Never automatically and unconsciously stick with your original plan because you cannot possibly make absolutely correct assumptions at the beginning about what your change effort will take, and new, unexpected dynamics will undoubtedly arise as you go. By constantly course correcting your plan, you won’t get blindsided by any original over-simplification, nor burdened by “extra” tasks you put into your plan at the beginning. Instead, you will have the most streamlined approach you possibly could, given the complexity of your change, and you will succeed because you are doing what you need to succeed. Rather than pay a huge cost for change with no benefit, you will reap significant ROI from consistent, successful implementations.
What is your perspective on this? Do you think that organization’s lack of change capacity and leader’s desire for simplicity is limiting their ability to see what is really required to transform organizations successfully?