“The Reasons Why Many Change Programmes Fail”

Part 12

Lack of Urgency

In this last of the series of 12 blogs I am looking at another reason why significant change programmes can fail… “Lack of urgency”

As you know I write these blogs from my own practical perspective gained from over 20 years management consultancy experience implementing large scale change programmes in large organisations.

Lack of urgency does not mean running around like a headless chicken of course, that is just living in the Urgent and Important box of the classic time management quadants of Steven Covey.

Basically, firefighting!

The definition of sense of urgency is capture well by the management guru, John Kotter

“Urgency is a combination of thoughts, feelings, and actual behaviour. The thoughts are, there are great opportunities out there, great hazards. The feelings are a gut-level determination that we’re going to do something now, we’re going to do something to win. And the behaviour is this hyper-alertness to what’s going on. It’s a sense of coming to work each and every day with a commitment to making something happen that’s on the important issues.”

The point I want to make here is, within a well-structured Transformational Change Programme or significant Business Improvement initiative, a shift in human behaviour is paramount. Doing things differently promotes change and the more it is done and frequently the newer behaviour becomes the “New Normal”.

This will come about by thinking differently. Leaders in the business need to promote and demonstrate this, on an almost daily basis. There is science and psychology behind these thoughts, but in a practical way I like to describe it in terms of the diagram below.

The diagram above show two forms of ‘washing lines’.

The top picture showing large washing line posts that are widely spaced apart. These represent significant change events, such as workshops or ‘on the job’ interventions. These are typically monthly shutdowns to make changes in the business or to train people in the new ways of working. The picture shows the ‘washing line’ between the two posts which sags dramatically. This illustrates what happens between large events when the ‘back to normal magnet’ of everyday life draws people into their old ways and not the new work systems or methodologies required to instil permanent change.

The bottom illustration shows smaller washing line posts representing frequent but smaller change interventions in the organisation. If these are done frequently; every day or every week. The ‘sag’ in the top diagram isn’t allowed to drop, so new behaviour doesn’t slip ‘back to normal’ as you would get between monthly or even quarterly activities.

So, the “Sense of Urgency” message in a Change Management initiative is to ensure that frequent, less time consuming, training and interventions in the business are planned and organised in preference over larger significance activities with little new change in between them.

Sometimes it’s difficult to influence people to adopt this approach with weekly interventions taking a couple of hours a week and disrupting the organisation, but the reality is, this is the most time effective approach and the most efficient way for people to understand and adopt new procedures, methods and new ways of working.

This short and frequent approach must be part of the overall strategy, which seniors have bought into before an initiative starts.

Get in touch for an informal chat about you, us and your opportunity.

Martin Gummery, Managing Director, NewLeaf International Ltd

Tel: 01905 425209

Email: headoffice@newleafinter.co.uk