How effective are change efforts? Basically, one eighty degree turnaround in many cases of organizations and it is certainly a risky endeavor. The largest review to date found that fifty percent of change interventions resulted in minimal change. Very few interventions had negative effects but about half of them had no effect, whereas the other half had positive and varied in terms of how positive those changes were.
So you can see that although change may not hurt the company, often times it does not help the company. And that is especially true when changes aren’t rolled out the proper way. And what the researchers found in their review of the change literature, is that of those fifty percent of interventions that did work, some common themes across the ones that work were: there was support of upper management, there was agreement throughout the organization that change is needed, that was participation by all stakeholders, there was a thorough diagnosis done to figure out what is the problem and then how can we solve that, and effective evaluation.
One problem, and we will talk about this with change efforts, is that often times, change isn’t evaluated. The change initiative is taken, the new process is implemented but then there is very little follow up on is this is working or not and seeking feedback and then using feedback to alter the change further if need be. So diagnosis is really the first step and effective organizational change cannot happen without effective diagnosis. Doctor’s diagnose before they operate and so should you before and undergoing an organizational change.
What is really interesting though, and that may come as a surprise, is that many change efforts do not involve any diagnosis whatsoever. Or change initiatives are instigated based on an assumption of what the problem is without actually verifying what it is. Change initiative that is targeting a problem that is really isn't a problem and off course that change effort is not gonna be effective.
So Diagnosis serves three goals: First one and one of the most important ones is to obtain valid information about company functioning and really pinpoint where the problem is. Diagnosis can also rally people’s energy and support for change. Undergoing a diagnosis communicates to folks that there’s a problem here, we’re going to be undergoing change, so it is a very visible and explicit way of preparing people for the upcoming change.
And then diagnosis can also develop collaborative relations between among all stakeholders. To the extend you can involve stakeholders into the diagnosis process. That is a way to get their buy-in and acceptance early on in the process.
When developing an action plan, directive and participative leader behaviors are key. It is important to identify what the key issues are and then collaborate to create a plan. Directive leadership is important because it eliminates uncertainty whereas participative leadership is important because it builds ownership into the process and satisfies people’s autonomy, which creates greater acceptance.
And remember goal setting theory: when developing an action plan you need to set challenging goals but these goals have to be specific and also have time limits tied to them. Also it's a good idea to link goals to incentives and maybe in some cases punishers. And that inspires even greater buy in and motivation for accomplishing those change oriented goals.