Change Management Disasters: Steer Clear of These 3 Fatal Fails

By Robert Half January 14, 2016 at 8:00pm

It’s no wonder that “change management” and “business transformation” are two of the hottest buzzwords in the business world right now. In our fiercely competitive, ever-evolving climate, companies must be agile enough to change on a dime if they want to survive.

Whether you’re adapting to a company merger, preparing for an initial public offering, navigating new regulatory compliance mandates or adjusting to new technology, change management has become a critical skill for all executives. (In fact, a McKinsey Global Survey found that business transformations are more likely to succeed when company leaders are active and involved.)

If you want to ensure your change management efforts are a resounding success, it’s important to learn from others’ mistakes. Here are three common change management fails to avoid:

Fail #1: Refusing to change

A company that remains stagnant is asking for trouble. There are many well-known cases in which strong brands refused to stray from the winning strategies that had propelled them to the top — a decision that eventually led to some rather infamous falls from glory.

To remain relevant, companies must embrace change with an eye to the shifting market around them — even if that means working against some of their earlier successes.

How can CFOs and other financial executives spur change? These three strategies can help:

  • Stay on top of both short- and long-term market trends and adapt accordingly.
  • Build a strong team by hiring forward-thinking employees with diverse perspectives — and encourage dissenting opinions among your staff.
  • Recognize your role as a strategic adviser for the business, which gives you the unique opportunity to drive innovation within your company.

Fail #2: Losing steam

When it comes to change management, creating change is the easy part. The hard part is keeping the momentum going.

To prevent organizational transformations from losing steam, you must ensure managers are prepared to demonstrate leadership during periods of change. After all, managers are the catalyst for change because they are the ones actively engaging and motivating staff members.

Fail #3: Malfunctioning messages

Yet another reason change management often falls flat is because executives neglect to guide their staff through the change.

Staff management is key to change management — and managing your staff through change requires flawless communication.

As a CFO or high-level financial manager, not only must you clearly communicate change to your direct reports, you need to ensure these messages are trickling down to their teams.

For change management efforts to succeed, it’s critical to broadcast these updates and strategies (and the reasons behind them) loud and clear to the entire organization. Communicate with staff members early and often. Discuss how each employee’s role will change while highlighting the benefits, as well as the potential new opportunities. Most important, make yourself available for questions and share new information as quickly as possible.

This post was originally published in December 2014 and has been updated to reflect more current information.

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