The Problem and Opportunity with Change
Randy G. Pennington
Another blog post about change? Really? The thousands of other books, blogs, and articles on the subject aren’t enough?
I am with you. I don’t need to hear another message that changes are coming and I need to get on board.
And yet, we are confronted with this reality: Most of our efforts to make change work don’t work as well as we had hoped … or even at all.
Research published by John Kotter in 1995 stated that 70 percent of change efforts fail to achieve their desired goal. Since that time, there has been an explosion in books, articles, training videos, seminars, and speeches about change.
So what impact did we achieve from all of our focus on change?
In 2013, eighteen years after Kotter’s study, every indication is that the vast majority of change efforts —as high as 70 percent by some reports—fail to achieve their desired goal.
That’s right. There has been basically a whopping 0 percent improvement in our collective ability to effectively initiate and implement change.
We can now conclude that all of our attention and focus on change hasn’t really changed our ability to successfully implement change in organizations.
But, you knew that already.
Think of all the changes you have experienced within the organizations for which you have worked. Don’t you think we would be better at it by now?
Relentless competition, advancing technology, and the struggle to remain relevant have made the ability to change a matter of survival for some industries and professions.
There is another story to be told, however. The ability to make change work is a strategic advantage.
Companies that can quickly identify, anticipate, and adapt to changing customer needs and wants are the winners in a world where the competitive landscape changes overnight. Leaders with the ability to build a nimble team that is engaged and focused on continually getting better will see their opportunities expand.
Ross Perot, founder of EDS and Perot Systems and former candidate for U.S. President, famously said: “You manage data and things. You lead people.”
Too often, we have treated people like data and things to be managed rather than as human beings with dreams, aspirations, and choice. We won’t make change work until we embrace the difference as an opportunity to make our organizations, our communities, and our lives better.
You can’t do what you need to do and be what you need to be as a leader unless you can make change work. That begins when you acknowledge the problem and embrace the opportunity of change.
Randy Pennington is author of Make Change Work: Staying Nimble, Relevant, and Engaged in a World of Constant Change (Wiley, 2013) from which this article is adapted. For additional information or to schedule Randy for your organization: contact via telephone at 972.980.9857; e-mail at Mary@penningtongroup.com or on the Internet at http://www.penningtongroup.com/make-change-work/.