A recent article by Brian Dominguez, CPIM, a change consultant and General Manager at MDMOTO Group, in the Jan/Feb 2016 issue of APICS Magazine reminds us of just how hard change can be. As John Kotter noted twenty years ago in the Harvard Business Review, 70 percent of change attempts fail outright. Studies point to human resistance and company culture as key reasons.
Software implementation projects are a great example, and with their very dynamic designs, it’s no surprise that the Standish Group’s 2014 “Chaos Report” found that only one in six such projects finish on time and on budget, and that only one in eleven large businesses reach their implementation targets.
As Dominguez points out in his article, “Clearly change is difficult [and]… does not occur without conscientious planning and support from the top down.” Too often, he notes, change projects are driven by quantitative, empirical and rational approaches to a problem – when in fact those methods “fail to take into account that change is driven by a qualitative environment and may require a different technique to gain buy-in.”
Kotter therefore advises business leaders to follow 8 guidelines that he says are essential for fostering change:
- Create a sense of urgency
- Establish a powerful guiding coalition
- Create a vision
- Communicate a vision
- Empower others to act on the vision
- Plan for and create short-term wins
- Consolidate improvements and produce still more change
- Institutionalize the new approach.
There’s a lot more to the article than that (like how small wins are important because they reduce anxiety and resistance to change while building a sense of self control), but as you can see, if the emphasis is not on the human elements of the change at hand, and the careful communication and handling of those elements, then the chance for failure is pretty high.
It’s worth five minutes of every manager’s time to review Kotter’s 8 points, and keep the human side of change foremost in one’s mind for any change initiative you may be contemplating. And that most assuredly includes software implementations.
(APICS Magazine can be found here.)