A research report from Marakon Associates, shows that an astounding 60% of major change projects fail to deliver the expected results. This means that less than half of change projects actually deliver the intended results.

As organizations spend significant time and resources planning and initiating change, leaders are expecting that changes will take root and that both the organization and its people will be better off because as a result. So, why do so many change initiatives fail?  How do you ensure your organization is among those successful 40%? And how do you know when your organization has… well… changed?

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Think about the end … at the beginning

Organizational change requires hours of focused planning, execution, and communication.  A key component of this initial planning is the development of a change management project plan. When this plan is being created, the future state of your organization needs to be clearly detailed and what success looks like from an operation, sales, and management point of view must be clearly articulated.

This means you must:

  • Have a clear vision for what that success looks like
  • Quantify Key Performance Indicators
  • Define and institute a measurement system that accurately reports on KPIs
  • Measure progress
  • Understand the impact on those who will be impacted by the change and their reactions

While the project is underway, a mistake that commonly occurs is that the senior management team simply decides that the change process is complete. When this happens, the focus, communication, and diligence around instituting the changes may be abandoned before they have successfully penetrated the organization’s culture and norms.

Instead, you must consider and measure the work that’s happening at all levels as change is cascaded down, and throughout, the organization.

Again, defined in your initial plan, these measurement tools may take the form of:

  • Employee feedback surveys
  • Manager feedback
  • Focus groups
  • Financial metrics

Whatever form measurement takes, you need to have systems in place from the project’s outset to track and monitor success and ultimately, to know when change has truly taken root.

Set the timelines for completion

Be sure to set a deadline for completion. Typically, organizational change initiatives that originate with the CEO are multi-year projects. For these large change initiatives it’s important to go through at least one business cycle to ensure all employees have had ample time, support, and practice to move through the learning curve and adopt the changes. Whatever your timeline is, be sure to monitor progress and course correct along the way to avoid any surprises come your pre-determined deadline.

Organizational change is rarely easy to plan, manage, or measure. But the potential benefits for an organization that can successfully evolve with our ever-changing business world is invaluable. While there are many factors at play, defining success, measuring progress, and working with a deadline are three steps that can help every leader know when changes have been successfully implemented.