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Soft Skill!?

Updated: Jul 28, 2023

The Harvard Business School conducted a corporate survey in 2000 and concluded that about 70% of change initiatives fail to achieve desired outcome (link). To be clear, not all initiatives were blazing dumpster fires, "failed to achieve desired outcomes" is a broad term. However, the point is still significant. If an individual improvement project or a organizational transformation are initiated on the basis of their business value, the return on investment, what does that mean if a majority of those don't deliver to the level of expectation?

McKinsey and Company's 2008 Quarterly Executive survey (link) points to two primary drivers for improved results in these projects and programs.

  1. Employee resistance to the change

  2. Management behavior does not support the change

There are plenty of analyses, studies, surveys and anecdotal evidence that organizational change management is more than a "soft skill". It is necessary of the process to yield the expected business results. Beyond the desire to achieve results and address the primary drivers for missing the mark, effective change management does two other things in particular that increase success rate of the initiative.

  • Gets input from the frontline to ensure the solution address the root of the problem

  • Because they are involved in the solution, they take some ownership for the success

Let's keep in mind that the change outlasts the initial implementation. Think more broadly about the term "change". To successfully implement change, it does mean that the organization itself needs to change. That includes leadership. Leadership behavior also needs to be supportive of the change. While the new standards are applied at the front-line of operations, it is leadership's role to reinforce the standards. The verify and coach the organization back to the change as it was implemented. There is a set of expectations that need to be set with leadership on their role post-change. There is a quote I heard a few weeks back:

Continuous Improvement of our business inherently requires a change in the way we think about, transact or monitor our processes. We are all going to be part of and/or leading changes in our business. There are three components to every business process; process, technology, and ... people. Effective change that achieves the desired outcome requires management all three.

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