Why do such a small percentage of change initiatives succeed? David Michels, who leads Bain's Results Delivery® practice in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, describes three common myths associated with change management—and how businesses can break through them to increase their chances of success.
Read the Bain Brief: Results Delivery®: Busting Three Common Myths of Change Management
Read the transcript below.
DAVID MICHELS: Most companies that launch major change initiatives fall well short of achieving their stated ambition. In fact, our research suggests only 12% succeed. Why is this the case?
Well, it turns out that organizations don't change. People change. And this is often overlooked by management. In fact, there are three very common myths that hold leadership teams back from achieving their full potential when it comes to change initiatives.
The first is the feeling that change is somehow irrational and hard to predict, when in fact, the reality is that it is predictable, it is manageable, and there are tools and techniques that can be used to get out in front of these risks and to put mitigation plans in place. The second myth is that as long as we minimize the change on people, we're going to be OK, when in fact, the reality is it's our job as leaders to help people to get through that change process as quickly as possible, not to avoid it. It doesn't work.
The third myth is that in order to succeed, all we need is great leadership and solid day-to-day management. The reality is that while that is important, the rules of the game change during times of disruption and they're sometimes counterintuitive. We understand from the world of behavioral science things like: people only are able to process 20% of what they hear when they're feeling disrupted; things like they care much more about who the messenger is versus what the content is of what they're hearing; they care that people care more than they care what they know; things like reinforcements are four times more impactful in affecting someone's behavior than the triggers right up front. And so the routines that leaders build up over time during normal periods of management style are different during times of change and need to be adjusted accordingly. Busting these three myths will increase the odds of success.
Five guiding principles can help leadership teams steer change more effectively.