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2,000 Executives Weighed In On Embracing Change. These 7 Keys Were Most Important

After extensive planning efforts, research shows that most important step to effective change management is yet to come.

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BY Michael Schneider - 11 Sep 2017

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

It can take months, even years, to develop a new strategy or devise a plan for organizational transformation. Unfortunately, even after all the time and energy that goes into coordinating change efforts, many organizations still fail to see clear financial benefits. In fact, through a McKinsey global survey of over 2,000 executives, less than half of all respondents said that their initial goals were met and sustained.

When asked to evaluate their organization's, executives cited the commitment to change -- or lack thereof, as the key predictor of success. One of the areas where commitment is most noticeable is during the implementation stage -- hence why executives went on to say that the application is the most important step to effective change management.

Through their research, McKinsey studied the organizations that scored the highest and found these seven traits of "good implementers."

1. Ownership and commitment to change.

If you're going to have a shot at sustaining change, you'll have to assign clear, organization-wide ownership. This includes every department at every level across the organization. Although it's a tedious process, ensuring that everyone has a role and is a part of the big picture is vital to driving commitment.

2. A prioritized set of changes.

Tackling too many changes at once will bog down your organizations and lead to employee burnout. An operational or strategy shift doesn't happen overnight.

It can take months if not years before the benefits of organizational change are realized. To streamline the process and save employee's mental bandwidth, roll out a prioritized list of changes in succession.

3. Clear accountability.

One of the quickest ways to ensure employees are committed to change is to assign accountability. Better yet, adjust goals, update metrics and have regularly scheduled check-ins to measure and track progress. Tie change efforts to an employee's performance review and they'll take ownership.

4. Effective program management.

Program Managers are responsible for managing multiple projects and coordinating various efforts to achieve results that couldn't otherwise be achieved if the projects were managed separately.

Since all departments have a part in the organization's overall success, it's critical that their work is connected and organized. The right-hand needs to know what the left is doing if you want to create sustainable change. Rolling out initiatives in a vacuum will tear a company a part.

5. Long-term planning for change.

If you're going to create sustainable processes, then you'll need to invest as much time and energy in building a plan that extends beyond implementation. Here are four great suggestions from a Leonardo Consulting blog post:

  • First off, proactively prepare for problems. Whether it's resistance to change or a lack of tools and training, issues are going to pop up. Having a plan that can be implemented quickly will ensure issues don't derail your plan.
  • Next, it is much easier to diagnose and troubleshoot problems if employees are educated on new processes and a map is created. Use the structure to detect process breakdowns and opportunities.
  • Also, when a process is written, you can track desired verse actual performance. It's not enough to create structure. You also have to define performance expectations and assign metrics.
  • Lastly, it's important to assign process owners who are accountable for system integrity. Nothing will sidetrack change efforts faster than having tools that diagnose problems but don't address them.

6. Continuous improvement.

Another great benefit of process mapping is continuous improvement. When each step is specified, it's much easier to identify and devise alternative plans to course correct.

No matter how much thought goes into planning for change, there will always be unexpected difficulties that arise. Make sure you build a platform that is adaptable.

7. Resources and capabilities.

Nothing is more frustrating than being asked to manage or handle something that, due to insufficient resources or training, you're ill-equipped to control. If you expect significant efforts from employees to change, you'll need to support them with the resources they need.

After months of intensive planning, your knee-jerk reaction is going to tell you just to push changes out. However, this research suggests that the same amount of time and energy should go into devising an implementation plan. The benefits reported by "good-implementor" companies included continued financial performance two years after changes were made as well as greater financial performance relative to their competitors.