70% of all change initiatives fail.
That’s a pretty startling statistic. Especially when you consider how important change is. I mean, we all acknowledge this, right? There aren’t many organizations out there saying, “You know what we need to do? We need to maintain the status quo, and we need to do it now!”
Every breakthrough involves change. Every innovation involves change. Every new product, policy, or service that moves you ahead of the competition involves change.
So change is vitally important-and yet 70% of change initiatives fail.
Why is that?
It’s because the people leading change don’t play the long game.
To put it another way, they declare victory too soon. Here’s why.
Change is difficult. There’s no getting around that. Change can be messy and uncertain-especially when you’re right in the middle of it. As Harvard professor and author of The Change Masters Rosabeth Moss Kanter puts it, “Everything can look like a failure in the middle.”
In fact, the middle part of change-the messy, uncertain part-can be so painful that we declare victory the instant we’re through it. It’s as if, as soon as we start to see light at the end of the tunnel, we wipe our brow, give each other a high five, and say, “Whew! That’s done!”
But it’s not done. Yes, you’ve made it through the messy part, but you haven’t anchored the change. It’s not yet a part of the culture. It hasn’t “stuck.”
You played the short game.
The truth is, change is a long game. The average successful corporate change initiative is a seven-year process-of which years three, four, and five are the messy part. But notice that there are still two years of anchoring left before the change sticks, before it becomes part of the culture.
It’s the part after the messy part that determines whether or not your change initiative will last.
So what, as a leader, do you do during this part?
You reinforce the change.
You actively look for any and every positive outcome that is a result of the change, and you become relentless about communicating these outcomes to the team. You have to be the one connecting the dots of success back to the change because, left to their own, your team members will not make the connection.
Only by reinforcing the change can you anchor the change, and only by anchoring the change can you make the change truly stick.
And once you do this, you’ll be in that exclusive club of leaders whose change initiatives succeed.