An incredibly high percentage of changes introduced in business organizations do not reach their full potential—that is, do not reach full implementation or do not produce the benefits envisioned by their sponsors.
Changes that fail usually do not fail because of technical reasons— something inherently flawed about the change itself. They usually fail because of human reasons—the promoters of the change did not attend to the healthy, real, and predictable reactions of normal people to disturbances in their routines.
These failures create large losses of time, productivity, and morale. They also undercut the legitimate business objectives that the change was meant to engender. For example, one manufacturer attempted to replace several disjointed software systems with one integrated enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. Because of poor project management, the user community was insufficiently involved in the planning stages, and the project failed dramatically. Opponents then said, “Told you, we just can’t do an ERP in our business.” In fact, having an ERP was a great idea. The project failed because of poor change management practices, and it took years for the organization to recover and install an ERP successfully.
This human tendency to want consistency—to resist change—is actually healthy, in the balance. Without consistency, life would fall out of control and into chaos. We would be unable to predict people’s behaviors or establish our own routines and positive behavioral patterns. Thank goodness for the steadying force of our own behavioral inertia.
However, this same steadying force can work against us when we try to introduce a change. People tend not to want to deviate from behaviors that work for them.
Why do they not want to change when the need for change is so clear to you? It is precisely because the need for change is not clear to them. It is often said that people don’t resist change so much as they resist being changed. So your job is clear: in a nutshell, you have to explain why the affected people should want to change. You have to convey the same understanding and enthusiasm that you and your team have.
You have to cultivate readiness, not resistance.