Today, managing continual disruption is a skill required of most leaders. Change management is the new management, which makes doing it effectively that much more difficult.
Change fatigue is one of the most common reasons for failure. It typically occurs when multiple changes are implemented at once and fail simultaneously as a result. To rebuild resilience and win back confidence, leaders need to take three important steps at the outset of any initiative.
Acknowledge the pain of the past. Too many leaders charge ahead, trying to inspire people without acknowledging the pain of the past. Without realizing it, they’re erasing the very real frustrations of their employees. The reality is that every organization has some track record of failure. That’s why it’s better to start with the assumption that people don’t trust your intentions or approach and are expecting you to fail as well.
Ground your plan in evidence. Knowing that past efforts have failed is helpful, but knowing why they failed can strengthen your credibility. Every organization does things to undermine change; figuring out what those are can help you avoid them. It’s important to present your team with a detailed diagnosis of what has gone wrong in the past, and why.
Regularly ask how your plan for change feels different from past efforts. In order to avoid the failures of the past, you should ask people to tell you if and how your plan for change feels different. Then use those insights to stay on track.
Your organization undoubtedly has weathered past failures, some of which may even have been yours. That’s all the more reason for you to take responsibility for, and learn from, them. Begin your next change effort with an apology for past failures, whether they are yours or not, and then use the steps above to avoid repeating them.