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5 Myths About Change Management

Help employees develop the practical skills to work through the change and in the new roles that are created

Six MythsThe phrase “change management project” probably seems a misnomer to many employees at the moment, as it implies a set of tasks with a beginning, middle, and end.

Instead, the world’s big companies are undertaking multiple large changes in a bid to make the most of a different operating environment, new technology, and the need to work in more markets than ever before.

CEB data on 300 companies show that the average firm has been through five major changes in the past three years and only one third of these initiatives succeeded. More research and ideas on this topic.

Change also, rather obviously, heaps stress on employees, and it gets worse if they expect more stress in the future, as many rightly do. Typical approaches to change management certainly aren’t resolving that stress. Almost two-thirds of employees (62%) agree that their stress level has increased in the past two years, which has lead to a significant loss in productivity.

Five Myths

IT teams are at the heart of a lot of this change management work; either because the IT function itself is changing so frequently or because so much change management involves information and technology. CEB work with senior executives from many different functions sums up five myths that IT teams tend to subscribe to and shouldn’t.

The bottom line is that these myths all cast employees as the subjects of change – something that “happens to them.” Instead, they should be active participants.

  • Myth 1: Change can be managed as a project:

    The reality: Change is constant. As firms are going through multiple planned and unplanned changes at once, so the ripple effect of previous change is still felt when the next one hits. Leading IT teams have stopped taking an “episodic” approach to managing change. Instead, they build the organizational capability to continuously adapt to change.

  • Myth 2: Employee buy-in is the most important cause of good performance during change:

    The reality: Employee buy-in is not enough. In fact, winning “buy-in” without also developing employees’ capability to work in the changed environment will only create more stress. The most effective change management approaches help employees build the capabilities they need in order to adapt to the change.

  • Myth 3: Employees don’t have the skills to cope with change:

    The reality: The percentage of people who successfully adapt to changes outside the workplace is greater (almost double) than those who display similar behaviors at work, so employees find change harder in the workplace than in their personal lives. This suggests that firms are inadvertently stifling their employees’ capability to change in a workplace setting.

  • Myth 4: Nothing beats a good change plan:

    The reality: A clear goal matters more than a perfect plan. In fact, for change to succeed, it’s less important to have clearly defined responsibilities across the planning and implementation phases than for employees to know what defines success. A well-defined goal improves the probability of success, but a robust planning process does not.

  • Myth 5: Employees need more information:

    The reality: Most organizations launch elaborate communication campaigns to enable change. As a result, employees in the midst of change receive far more information than employees in a more stable environment. This is counterproductive because information overload is a significant block on employees’ capability to adapt to continuous change. It’s better to create simple messages and target them to the right groups of employees.

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