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Explore these 12 deadly sins of change implementation in organizations. Change is here to stay, so organizations must avoid deep and deadly potholes on the road to change success. They can only do so by knowing these 12 deadly sins of change implementation.


12 Deadly Sins of Change Implementation in Organizations

By Catherine Adenle

Knowing these 12 deadly sins of change implementation in organizations is vital. Why? Well, whether to gain a competitive advantage, improve operational efficiencies, have solid and universally used products and services or survive the global economic downturn, most organizations have to embrace change management more than ever before. These days, change has become a fundamental business practice; with leaders recognizing the importance of getting it right in order to keep pace with the competition in a rapidly developing corporate world.

Discussing these 12 deadly sins of change implementation will empower leaders, change agents, individuals and help organizations to successfully guide against change failure. To adjust course and achieve successful changes in order to set themselves up for attainment, organizations have to undergo change efforts and meet their goals and results as well as sustain change over time. The key to change effort success or failure is the commitment to change. Organizations’ wide ownership of change and commitment to change is always responsible for successful change management or its failure.

While major change efforts can deliver a wide range of improvements for organizations, many companies are ill-equipped to implement change or translate it into sustainable financial results. Typically, companies approach to change by starting with a range of potential ideas for improvement and then they narrow the scope to what they see as the highest priority change to target for implementation. Over the course of such change effort, ill-equipped organizations lose value and customers.

When it comes to large-scale change, the organizations with the most developed implementation capabilities see demonstrable financial benefits as a result of their change efforts. They also report a higher overall rate of success.

12 deadly sins of change implementation in organizations

12 deadly sins of change implementation in organizations -Change begins with you

1. Change for change’s sake: Why introduce change without tangible reasons? Sounds implausible but it happens even to the best organization. If there are no compelling reasons to implement change, why embark on one in the first place? Not only must an organization have reasons to implement change, but the reasons they have must also align with their organizational strategy. That way, stakeholders can relate to the change and they will be clear about what their contributions will be to the desired improvement.

2. Authoritarian leadership style and behaviours: When it comes to change, ‘old-school’ type of leadership style will seldom yield great results. Sustainable and successful change must not be imposed from the top. Changes that are “top-down” driven in organizations are often viewed as draconian. When the same changes emerge from group discussions and participation, they get far less resistance. James O’Toole points out in his book, Leading Change, that people resist change due to the fundamental human objection to having the will of others imposed upon them. People buy into any change they help to design or create, and they resist being told what to do.


12 deadly sins of change implementation in organizations -Leadership ongoing commitment during change

3. Lack of piloting change through collaborations: No man is an island when it comes to implementing change in an organization! No one person can do it all. This is the reason why there’s the need for collaborations. In organizations making use of meaningful collaborations, focus groups, change champions and agents is paramount. Organizations need to get their teams together to determine how to best pilot a major change first. This is vital in order to achieve maximum return on investment (ROI) and return on equity (ROE) of the change efforts. So, for any major change, there’s is a lot to gain by an organization if they implement change in bite-size chunks especially if the change doesn’t involve any sell-offs, redundancies or swift bankruptcy. This way, there is latitude in honing change implementation capabilities and utilizing lessons learnt to move ahead and achieve successful change.

4. Zero readiness for change: Successfully managing the complexity of change is virtually impossible without a robust plan that is supported by strong change and people management. Knowing what to change and understanding the reasons for change are only part of the equation. Organizations need to think about their implementation approach from the beginning to ensure that the result of the change is real, sustainable and show positive impact or outcomes. People change, organizations don’t! So, employee engagement is crucial to the success of the change.   See 4 Components of Successful Change Implementation in Organizations. 

5. Lack of resources and budget: You cannot implement a major change on nil budget! If a change effort is going to succeed, then the right resources need to be aligned in order to make change success possible.

12 Deadly Sins of Change Implementation in Organizations - lack of budget and resources

That means that people, processes, systems, finances, training, and operations need to be realigned so that an organization has the right people in the right position with the right resources and the right capacity to make change effort optimally successful and sustainable. If any of those items are misaligned, the probability of initiating and completing a successful change effort will significantly decrease. No sustainable change can take place without money or resources!

6. Poor communication and lack of feedback: This is another vital one of the 12 deadly sins of change implementation in organizations. No successful change can take place without effective communication. An organization must establish clear lines of communication and engage staff in change discussions. It is, after all, the employees who will be doing most of the leg work to make the change and new strategy work. So, it is imperative that they understand the aims and objectives of any change. Employees must also be clear on why the plan has been introduced, how it will be implemented, who will be involved, the timelines and how success will be measured. When change is announced, employees fear the unknown because they’ve grown accustomed to certain processes and procedures. Gaining more responsibilities and taking on new or additional tasks can be daunting for them, no matter how well briefed they are. So, the best way to overcome this fear is to provide employees with clear information and embark on regular dialogue. Organizations can make use of the employees who can encourage their colleagues to embrace change to communicate consistent change messages.

12 Deadly Sins of Change Implementation in Organizations - poor communication

Making sure employees understand the what, why, where, who and how of change is vital and it’s an essential component of any successful change management strategy. A recent study carried out by Towers Watson found that the top-performing companies employed various forms of communication to keep the workforce abreast of updates to working practices. In its Change and Communication ROI Study, Towers Watson revealed that a third of highly effective companies were good at communicating employee value propositions (EVPs) to staff. In contrast, only 4% of less effective businesses were considered adept at making the EVP, i.e. telling employees what the company expects of them and how they will be rewarded for hitting business performance targets. If there’s a lack of communication there will be a lack of positive reinforcement and no feedback. Poor communication is a vital one of these 12 deadly sins of change implementation in organizations.


7. Inadequate leadership participation and support: Change can look seamless because of visible and effective leadership or sponsorship. By emphasizing, demonstrating or stating their own personal commitment and determination to make change happen, leaders can influence the course of change. Inadequate leadership or the behaviour of leaders can derail any change and it is one of the biggest obstacles to successful change and its implementation in organizations. Not only can leaders fail to manage their organizations’ change effectively, but their behaviours can also certainly make things worse. Change management is a challenge when leaders across organizations are not willing to support or cheer-lead change.
A study by Gilley et al. shed some light on specific leader behaviours that are needed for effective organizational change. The study surveyed 513 working professionals across various industries. One of the findings of the study was that 80% of respondents reported that their leaders never, rarely or only sometimes implement change effectively.

8. Lack of change mitigation plans: When it comes to change, the challenges of implementation in organizations vary depending on geography, industry, value, principles and objectives. For this reason, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to ensure a successful change effort. When considering large-scale change, organizations must understand their own specific situation and plan their approach to the implementation of change accordingly. With this plan comes solid mitigation plans. Who is likely to resist or fence-sit the change and why? What can derail change? Are there reasons why change will not stick over time? How do we ensure that change is successful? These are the questions an organization’s mitigation plans must answer.

9. Nil employee engagement: Change is a fact of life in organizations and communities. When considering any type of major change in an organization, the people aspect of the change must not be neglected. Why? Change involves people to make a change and make change happen.

12 deadly sins of change implementation in organizations - Motivation helps to implement Sustainable Change

As an organization, while your competition can copy virtually every other advantage you have, they cannot copy your people or the results they achieve for your organization. If your employees are not engaged, change implementation will be a myth!“Organizations don’t change, people do!”

10. Lack of clear accountability: Who is accountable for what during change? Change means new ways of working, restructuring, reorganization, streamlining, new products, new systems, new services, merging, downsizing etc. Hence change can also mean layoffs, reassignments, transfers, or cause other impacts for employees. Who is ensuring that change is on track? Who is monitoring change to ensure that it delivers the expected results? Who is keeping the balls in the air? Roles and responsibilities are vital during change implementation.

11. Poor change management skill: Good change implementation is not magic! It is rather a skill like any other. The skill is underpinned by strong capabilities, people and project management plus sound organizational practices. Before beginning a new change effort, companies need to assess the skills, strengths and weaknesses in these areas to make sure they and their people, especially change champions are set up for success. Bypassing the three stages of change is a major one of the 12 deadly sins of implementing change. There are three stages to change execution:

    1. Initiation – the process leading up to the change.
    2. Implementation – the first experiences of change
    3. Continuation – the change becomes embedded. If these three stages of change are not properly observed and planned for,  change may not achieve its results.

12. Lack of rewards: Generally, the lack of reward for anything is demotivating. If an organization is demanding new behaviours from employees but recognition and rewards remain aligned to the old ways of doing things, then that’s begging for failure. If an organization should introduce new ways of doing things without training, promoting and upgrading the skills of their employees, then change will not yield expected results. Any change implementation ought to include a motivational component like promotion, pay increase, new responsibilities, linking rewards to performance etc.12 deadly sins of change implementation in organizations - Lack of employee recognition and reward

Motivating employees can lead to increased productivity and allow an organization to achieve higher levels of output. Motivation is generally what energizes, maintains, and controls behaviour. Salary is often not enough motivation to keep employees working for an organization, as it’s not always enough to push them to fulfil their full potential and be open to change. Motivated employees will retain a high level of innovation while producing higher-quality work at a higher level of efficiency. Remember, some employees are already feeling threatened by change, not rewarding or supporting such employees will affect the result of the change. Change ready organizations achieve measurable financial benefits that are sustained way after the initial implementation of change.

See 12 Reasons Why Employees Resist Change in the Workplace.

Now that you have explored these 12 deadly sins of change implementation in an organization, what else can you add? Let’s hear from you. Add your comments below.


Catherine Adenle
Founder, Catherine's Career Corner. The career site empowering and inspiring ambitious candidates of all ages and professions to thrive and work smarter on their careers. Gladly helping all career-minded people worldwide to explore their career, manage change and understand how new technologies are changing and enhancing the future of work.
Catherine Adenle

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