Firms still getting it wrong when it comes to change

Mar 07 2005 by Nic Paton Print This Article

Nearly half of UK businesses are failures at pushing through change, a new survey has warned.

The study by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has found more than four out of 10 businesses fail to meet their objectives when it comes to implementing change.

As it has estimated that large firms undergo a major change approximately once every three years and smaller firms are changing almost constantly, the implication is that businesses spend a large chunk of their time failing to get the results they want.

The key failing, stressed the CIPD, was employers being unable to communicate change effectively to their staff.

The report, HR: making change happen, suggested organisations need to take a closer look at four areas if they wanted to improve their change skills: choosing the team, project management, consulting and communicating.

Managing change requires different skills at different phases, and it is important to take this into account the skills required when thinking about who manages the different stages of the change project, it suggested.

Project management skills were also lacking in almost half of all change initiatives, a key contributor to the failure to achieve objectives, it added.

Piers Fallowfield-Cooper, an Academy for Chief Executives’ Chairman, said that many companies were littered with a history of poorly executed, half-finished change initiatives.

"These initiatives were plans that were perceived as strategically vital to the company's future by its senior management," he said.

"If you are to avoid a sense of ‘here we go again’ by the workforce and have any chance of success then it's about a lot more than choosing a clever name for the project!

Fallowfield-Cooper says to remember the 3Cs; Consider all the implications; consult on the plan and continuously communicate. Be honest about successes and setbacks, spin just doesn't cut it anymore.

"For a change programme to work it's also worth asking: ‘Who exactly is going to execute this plan?" he added.

"Execution is everything and will most probably require significant additional resources. If the implementers are managers who are also expected to continue with their normal jobs and responsibilities ask: 'Is that reasonable?'"

The chance of success is greatly increased with a well thought out project implementation plan, Fallowfield-Cooper stressed, as well as adequate resources dedicated to the project.

The CIPD added that employers needed to remember to consult with employees, unions and others so that everyone understood how change was likely to affect them.

It was also important to keep employees informed of changes taking place, as only then would management gain their trust and people would understand why structures were changing.

Vanessa Robinson, CIPD organisation and resourcing adviser, said, “Employers tend to focus on the end rather than the means when approaching change. But this will only lead to failure.

"Employers must look at the whole process when approaching reorganisation, from the communication and development of change to the end result. It is far safer to create a small change that can be implemented successfully over time,” she added.