Many C-suite executives associate organizational change with chaos and uncertainty. Without a doubt, poorly implemented change projects can have disastrous outcomes for the business. However, newer quantitative models on organizational change have helped to overturn old assumptions and outdated mental models. Instead of relying upon intuition, which has its limits, corporate leaders can now look to hard data to indicate what will ensure their future success. An Accenture analysis of 250 major change initiatives over the past 15 years has helped to dispel four conventional myths about organizational change.
What are some other change myths that no longer hold relevance today?
- Too much change, too fast, is a recipe for disaster. According to Accenture’s data, the highest performing organizations thrive on change. To begin with, they operate with 30-50 % more change activities going on at any given time, and said change activities are moving at a faster pace than the change activities of their lower performing counterparts. High performing companies have the ability to drive continuous change, and as a result, their achievements are relatively greater.
- Change causes organizations to falter. There is a misconception that large organizational change initiatives cause businesses to get off track. However, when Accenture examined these groups, they found that 85 percent of them already had significant underlying problems in place before the initiative was implemented. So while the change project may make a company’s weak points more visible, it doesn’t cause the organization to falter. Among organizations with a solid foundation of trust and confidence in leadership at all levels, change had little negative effect. Organizational change doesn’t cause dysfunction—it simply exposes it.
- Performance will be lower during the early stages of major change. Traditional models of major change assume that overcoming people’s inertia and resistance will cause an organization’s performance to dip before it eventually rises again. Accenture’s numbers refute that assumption. Among high-performing groups, business performance (more specifically, cost management, customer service, and effectiveness) rises from the very beginning of a change initiative.
- People need to understand changes before committing. Another building block of traditional change management thinking is that people must have an intellectual understanding of a change before they can embrace it. Accenture’s research indicates that this so-called “commitment curve” held true for lower-performing groups, but that among the high-performers, trust in management was at such a level that people are willing to commit before they even know what the change project is or what the goals of the change are. Organizations that have trusted leaders can begin implementing major organizational change without first needing to educate the entire workforce on the minutiae of every change initiative.