Forty-seven percent of business leaders surveyed in 2018 reported that revisiting organizational change is required every three years — on average — to sustain a competitive advantage and profitable operations amidst the growth of technology. The challenge is that many business leaders do not fully grasp the importance of flexibility and agility from top to bottom during the change management process.

It is said that great change is often preceded by chaos. The COVID-19 pandemic has proven how chaotic business operations can become, but it’s also given leaders the opportunity to confront organizational issues that have seeped to the surface and plan for a strong recovery.

Prior to COVID-19, businesses feared organizational change because — when not completed effectively— it can be implemented incorrectly and go over budget. Adding to that fear is a frequently cited 2015 study that indicates change programs only succeed in achieving their goals 30% of the time. In this uncertain climate, many leaders may be even more fearful about what lies ahead, how to begin and navigate the process effectively, and how to know when to adjust to keep change management and the success of the organization on track. Too often adoption and continuity efforts fall short, suggesting that the way businesses think about change may be misguided. In our current environment of unknowns, what worked before isn’t a guarantee for success today. Leaders that keep an open mind to the evolution of their organization and adjust how they view change are positioning themselves for continuity and greater success in the long-term. In my role for a consulting firm helping businesses with major shifts, there are three missteps I often see. Tapping into a consultant with expertise in organizational change can not only make the process efficient and help ease fears by offering solutions to common missteps such as those offered below but help adjust leaders’ mindsets to foster true, impactful change.

Daily documentation isn’t second nature

Human memory is notoriously unreliable, especially during times of constant change like a global pandemic or crisis. A single system for documentation should be a core tenet of any continuity plan and is a great first step toward meaningful change. During the change process, missing information and lapses of time increase the uncertainty and fear that prevents successful change management. Jotting notes in a centralized location lays a trail of breadcrumbs that decision-makers can use to revisit the emotions and thought processes that dominated the moment. Looking back on this documentation unlocks agile, nuanced decision-making that drives impactful change.

Encouraging “Follow best practices” instead of “Share your failures”

When organizations talk about what’s not working, it opens a door for new ideas and solutions. Following a plan is important, but encouraging flexibility leaves room for the kind of out-of-the-box thinking to help solve issues that will inevitably arise in the change process. In addition to added creativity, team members who share obstacles at work expose vulnerabilities that landmark studies show help connect people in ways that sharing successes do not. If there is a disruption in the change process, leaders can break the ice with a healthy, safe environment to share challenges and vulnerabilities that will enhance collaboration amongst team members and get the plan back on track.

Being unprepared for the unprecedented

The pandemic highlighted how unprepared businesses were to handle ever-changing scenarios and continuity during economic anxiety and a large-scale crisis. In fact, only 19% of businesses in 2018 had plans in place for continuing business operations during and after a crisis scenario. The time to address an unprecedented situation is long before such scenarios take place, giving team members time to proactively consider the unthinkable. A reactive response is far more likely to be done carelessly and doesn’t allow for all possibilities to be taken into account. Thinking of the unthinkable and planning a response proactively enables leaders to act swiftly and calmly without compromising the overall success of the organization.

It would be naive to think organizations can create change that works for them overnight. Measuring success requires a well-planned and documented process that leaves room for adaptability and constant modification; it isn’t a stagnant initiative. Businesses and organizations that want to remain competitive and relevant in an ever-changing environment have an opportunity to think differently about the best practices necessary to improve mindsets and implement successful change.

Wendy Maple has over eight years of experience in IT Professional Services. In her previous positions, Wendy worked in the fields of IT and Marketing. Most recently, she was the Director of Client Services for a business development and account management company for IT staffing and solutions.

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