• Simon Phillips

The Resilient, Change-Ready Workforce


Mastering the art of changing quickly is a crucial capability that can mean the difference between an organisation staying in business, or going bust. But whilst changing a structure, a location, a technology or a process may seem reasonably straight-forward on the face of it, the business world has learnt in recent decades that the human side of the equation can really threaten success.

Those working with change will be familiar with McKinsey's somewhat shocking statistic that 70% of change programmes fail to achieve their goals - largely attributable to organisations failing to successfully engage and adequately prepare those affected. And this is despite the popularity and wide-spread use of John Kotter's 8 step model... so what's going wrong?


Years of delivering corporate change-management themed workshops taught me a number things.

  1. Change is a highly emotive topic. People have often had bad experiences, and felt 'done to'. Managing the discussions in these workshops has sometimes been tricky, because emotions often haven't been processed, and people have needed to vent a bit before they are ready to focus on the future, and how they can provide a better experience for those they are managing and supporting.

  2. Organisations often do the consulting and engaging bit once they've made their mind up that the change is definitely going ahead. By this stage, a significant amount of time, effort, energy and money may have already been invested, making it very hard to turn back - even if feedback/evidence received indicates that the proposed change is highly unlikely to work; or the time isn't right; or there is a better way of achieving the desired outcome; and so on. The one thing worse than not being consulted about something major that affects you is being consulted, but then having your thoughts, feelings and ideas dismissed. It's no wonder so many change efforts fail.

  3. If attempts to engage and involve don't truly speak to the hearts and minds of those affected, they are unlikely to succeed. This should not just be about influencing, but also about understanding. Some people find change really difficult - either because they've had relatively little of it in their lives and haven't yet built their adaptability muscles, or because they the scars of past experiences which they need to process before they can move on with a constructive outlook.

So, how ready for change are the people in your workforce? How easily do they embrace uncertainty? Do they welcome it? Enjoy it even? Or do they resist it, and drag their heels?

How resilient are they? For example, how quickly are they able to process things and move on following adversity? How flexible are they in their thinking? How solutions-focused are they? All of these capabilities can be built with the right kind of training and support, but it can require an element of 're-programming'.

When we give a little more thought to change, ensuring that it's necessary in the first place (because without a strong driver, there won't be sufficient momentum to make it happen); consider all possible options and impacts; engage those affected early in the process and before a firm decision to go ahead is made; and suitably up-skill those affected in resilience/change-readiness, we can massively increase our chances of being in the 30% of change projects that succeed.

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Contact Martine to find out how The Change Maker Group can help you be successful in managing change in your organisation - martine@thechangemakergroup.com

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