How many times do you go to a company or industry event and hear about change efforts that have failed? Failed change efforts often make for the best stories, yet they cost companies time, money, reputation, and overall competitiveness. As a change leader, I’m often engaged by clients when a change effort has derailed or is at risk of derailing.
Here are some common signals that your change is derailing or has already jumped the tracks:
WHEN LEADERS SAY THEY DON’T FULLY UNDERSTAND THE CHANGE AND ITS COMPLEXITIES
Leadership should be aligned from the start for change impacting more than one department. If there are rumbles indicating a lack of understanding, don’t delay re-alignment efforts.
WHEN SPEED IS THE PRIMARY REASON FOR DECISIONS MADE
Phrases like ‘we don’t have time to do that’ or ‘we can’t change our timeline’ are commonly heard, and it’s a safe bet that quality outcomes are being sacrificed and high adoption is likely being traded for speed.
WHEN OTHERS START CREATING DIFFERENT SOLUTIONS AND WORKAROUNDS
When others in the organization take the reins and create their own solutions regardless of the broader change effort invested in, there is a disconnect between the change and the people impacted by the change.
WHEN IMPACTED TEAMS AVOID DEALING WITH THE CHANGE OR NAYSAY THE CHANGE
Confusion, lack of clarity, and fatigue will derail a change fast. Intentionally make this a part of your change plan early on (not just at implementation) and attend to it continuously.
YOU ARE RECEIVING REQUESTS FOR ADDITIONAL BUDGET BECAUSE OF MISSED IMPACTS OR ‘SCOPE CREEP’
Lack of early detailed understanding, what’s in and out agreement, and continuous realignment on the scope of large-scale change is an easy fix if attended to. However, it’s critical to do it well and design a monitoring mechanism for the change plan to avoid surprise budget requests.
WHEN KEY DELIVERABLES AREN’T BEING DELIVERED
A sure sign of derailment is when change teams can’t meet deadlines. A host of reasons cause this situation, including leadership not taking the time to set the change up for success.
WHEN YOU HAVE LOW-TO-NO ADOPTION OF THE CHANGE
It can be frustrating and disheartening when a change effort isn’t well adopted. But there is still time to recover. Humility, co-creation, design thinking, and experimentation are key skills to achieving desired outcomes at this stage.
If your change effort is off track or the train is about to leave, it’s not too late.
HERE ARE A FEW KEY CONSIDERATIONS:
- Put on temporary brakes – be curious about what is going on so you can ramp back up in a healthier way
- The cause of derailment is usually about people
- Pay attention to the signals or they will resurface with greater intensity escalating from a risk to an issue
- Get help to diagnose and triage your change to get it back on track
Written by Leslie Ellis, a Top Change Management Voice on LinkedIn and recently recognized as one of 2023’s Top 50 Most Dynamic Women in the Charlotte Region. Leslie is also CEO of Meaningful Change, a change advisory firm and certified woman-owned small business.