Today’s challenge is constant change at a velocity that has created fatigue in most organisations we work with. Typically, no sooner has the latest new initiative been completed than a new one starts – or commences half way through the previous programme which is often abandoned because the world is moving faster than our ability to adapt or to maintain focus.
Transformation fatigue can occur when a transformation programme runs for so long that people are tired of the change. Or, there have been failed attempts at similar change in the past, bringing up memories of failure or a perception of more pain than gain. At one client, transformation was a dirty word as it had become synonymous with failure.
Transformation fatigue creates many challenges for leadership.
Executive managers must be completely aligned on a common purpose which means understanding the journey the business has to go on. Once this alignment is achieved, it needs to be clearly articulated to the entire organisation. For any change, people want to know where they are today, where the business wants to be, and a timeline for this journey: From A to B by C. They are simple variables, but they need to be clear to everyone in the business.
Transparency and Motive
For change to be successful, the reason for the change also needs to be clear, compelling and transparent. Hidden agendas can derail even the best planned transformation programme. We have heard too many times claims from staff to the effect “She just wants this on her CV”. The change needs to be right for the business and not be driven by, or seen to be driven by, personal ambitions.
With technology playing such a large role in most transformations, “hard” technical skills are often the focus when establishing the transformation team. The importance of “soft” skills is often seriously underestimated. Change programmes can be very stressful. Anxiety builds if people feel excluded or that they will be adversely impacted. Early in a transformation at a large utility, engagement fell and leave days rose in one affected area, even though this area would see a 20% increase in headcount and numerous promotion opportunities. This just hadn’t been made clear to the people affected.
Ensuring the transformation team has the capability and determination to produce and deliver a robust communications programme is critical. Sponsors and programme leaders play a key role here. They need to effectively deliver the communication, with empathy. And communication needs to be regular – one communique at the official programme launch is not enough. Frequent, bite-sized and targeted information is much more effective than irregular missives from management or the programme office. Invariably, transformation involves organisational change and role redefinition. It is imperative that the transformation team has the soft skills to manage these changes; everything from capability assessments, to “spill and fill”, to Union negotiations, to managing redundancies and redeployments.
Using concepts and methods drawn from the agile approach to programme delivery can be helpful in reducing transformation fatigue as they move the change from being a Big Bang, which is often associated with higher business risks and larger changes, to a process characterised by a number of incremental changes. As well as reducing the anxiety associated with large change, it allows people to adapt at a more reasonable pace when new processes and systems are deployed. Seeing progress or wins is a big motivator for people to continue.
We know that the pace of change in the business world is not going to slow down. If anything, it may accelerate further. Ensuring transformation fatigue doesn’t paralyse the organisation will be an ongoing management challenge. That means assessing fatigue before embarking on a significant change programme and then taking the necessary steps to minimise its impact. This needs to be a core competency for the modern organisation.
If you’d like some help navigating transformation fatigue, or require help with your business transformation, please phone us today on 1300 70 13 14.