Why Is Change So HARD?

Change ManagementIn an organizational or business context, most of us have asked this question many, many times.  What is so disconcerting, is having a vision will be accomplished by the change that does not resonate with the group. Every organization will be a little different so one solution size will not fit all. However, there are a variety of obstacles that organizations may need to overcome and that may hinder their efforts to achieve successful change. These hurdles are as diverse as the companies they come from.

These six (6) “pesky” obstacles are typical of some of the issues managers and supervisors face today when trying to implement organizational change. As you read each of the descriptions, decide if the hurdle is affecting your ability to implement change in your department.

Group or Team Reports to Someone Else – It is very difficult to be responsible for improvement initiatives for a group that does not directly report to you. Even if you have the best intentions, the group may perceive that you are interfering where you do not belong. As an outsider, you appear to know little about the real issues and how they can best be solved. This will make it difficult for you to gain support from the group.

No Training – Some organizations take a more severe approach to change. There is no training, no investment in resources, and no commitment of time. There is only a mandate to “Make it, better, faster, cheaper and smaller.” When these organizations are confronted with employee perceptions of this situation, they will insist that this is a work smarter not harder approach, rather than the “do more with less approach” that it generally is.

Premature Training – Many organizations launch change initiatives by putting all employees through a standard training program. However, if the organization is not at a certain level of readiness, this approach can be a huge waste of time, energy and resources. Organizations also attempt to measure the success of a change effort by the number of teams that were set up and the number of people who were trained. Judging by the number of failed change initiatives, these are ineffective and inaccurate metrics.

No Time – “We are too busy,” can be a valid explanation for deferring a change initiative. A sudden sales increase that requires the focus of everyone involved is a valid reason to defer immediate action. The problem is that very often, as in our personal lives, the things that we are too busy with are often not really important, just urgent. A flurry of activity can make us feel like we are really contributing to the success of the organization. If there are major changes that need to be addressed and everyone is too busy to get to them, then the activities that could really help the organization may be ignored and never fully addressed.

No Budget – Organizations in the early stages of maturity tend to operate more from a tactical approach rather than from a strategic approach. This often means those decisions about investing in new programs; methodologies, tools, and training are made more often because of budgetary issues rather than by the actual needs of the organization. Many organizations seem to run out of money, with frightening predictability, at the same time every year and put into place across the board cost cutting measures like travel, hiring, and training freezes. This seasonal approach to spending can have a negative impact on change and improvement initiatives because the best initiatives will lose momentum and stop. When funding is cut, the focus of team members will be redirected to the crisis of the day.

Viewing Change As An Event – Change initiatives frequently happen in response to a major crisis. This is typical when a serious situation arises and a customer threatens to take action if the situation is not taken care of immediately. Specific teams are formed with key employees who must identify the problem and fix the root cause. Unfortunately, when the immediate crisis is averted, it is back to business as usual. For change to be effective, the efforts must be sustainable, and not be treated as a discrete event.

Related Articles:   Working Amid Chaos and Constant Change , 1000 Ways to Manage Change … But Here’s Five! and Avoid Change Pains … without seeing a doctor!

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James E. McClain is the author of Successful Career Development: A Game Plan, the book upon which some of our training programs are based. He has over 30 years' experience as a corporate HR executive, small business owner with ongoing experience in career development and as a college instructor. His educational background includes a B.S. and Masters degrees Education and Certification in Financial Planning. Our promise is that "you can pay more for training but you can not buy better training." The mission is to deliver the most effective and cost effective training and development programs.

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