September 22, 2016

Change Management – Pitfalls to Avoid

Every Organization no matter how big or small is constantly undergoing change in today’s rapidly changing environment. Management of change within organizations needs to be a core part of the role of HR professionals, as many of the issues concern the ‘people aspects’ of change. While most of us may consider ourselves experts at change management in fact we are not.

Most changes in organizations fail, due in part to, employee resistance, failure to adequately prepare and miscommunication. Research shows that change initiatives are nearly twice as likely to fail as a result of poor implementation rather than technical or operational issues. If change is not implemented correctly, the results can range from inconvenient to disastrous, such as inefficiencies, duplicated efforts, and lost business opportunities.

Organizations that are able to mange change effectively gain distinct advantages over their competition that leads to even greater success. When done right, change management can alleviate uncertainty among employees about how the change might impact them, reduce the potential for a negative impact on productivity, and engage or re-engage the organization’s workforce.

Pitfalls to Avoid during Organizational Change

Starting Too Late

Managers often decide to initiate a change process under time pressure. Employees are notified hastily and incompletely. As a result, there is insufficient time to incorporate and adjust to the changes. Managers become dissatisfied with the slow progress and hold their employees responsible, claiming that they lack commitment and devotion, that they are not responsive to the need for change and the urgency involved.

Winning Strategy

The best change program in the world won’t do any good if your organization doesn’t have a strategy for getting where it wants to go.


Big changes and new programs often are announced with big events, but then very little actually happens.  The initial energy and enthusiasm fades, specific changes are never identified let alone implemented, results aren’t realized, managers don’t adjust, or may be something even better comes along leading to a new “launch” with new fanfare.

Failure For A Compelling Urgent Case For Change

What is obvious to the top may not be so obvious to other pivotal players.  How real and meaningful is the case for change? Failure to create a strong sense of urgency causes a change movement to lose momentum before it gets a chance to start.  Establishing a true sense of urgency without creating an emergency is the first objective achieved to overcome the routine of daily business.

Only Focusing On Rational Elements

Organizational change will be extremely difficult in most cases if managers rely only on making a case to the rational, analytical, problem-solving side of the brain.  Before you can get buy-in, people need to feel the problem and be convinced it truly needs to be addressed.

Not Dealing Proactively With Resistance

Employee resistance is a natural reaction to widespread organizational changes. While it’s not possible to be aware of all sources of resistance to change, expecting that there will be resistance to change and being prepared to manage it is a proactive step.  It’s far better to anticipate objections than to spend your time putting out fires.  Knowing how to overcome resistance to change is a vital part of any change management plan.

“It is not the strongest species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones who are most responsive to change” – Charles Darwin

Assume Everyone’s Reaction To Be Like Yours

Do not expect that everyone’s reaction will be even remotely like yours.  Regardless of the catalyst for the change, it will be your employees who determine whether it successfully achieves its desired outcome.  For companies planning a major change initiative, taking a phased approach can help ensure that the transition to a new system or process is as smooth and seamless as possible.

Lack Of Communication

The baseline requirement of change management is to plan and prepare. Once this is done, successful implementation of change requires acceptance. Communication and engagement are the keys to effective change.

“People in the organization own the culture, so ignoring people concerns during organizational change is foolhardy”

Resistance to change will be highest where the need for change is not effectively communicated and where the benefits of change are not understood by all.

Not Enough Leadership

A participatory style of management, where consensus allows everyone to take part in making decisions, can work effectively when an organization is humming along smoothly. It is the appropriate time to demonstrate interactive leadership. However, it is an illusion to presume that increased training and coaching in communication or influencing skills is a sufficient response to an organization under crisis. In times of crisis, management must dare to show authority. Crisis in an organization demands clear directives from a strong leadership. Even under pressure, a strong leader will devote time to reflection by involving the right people and listening to them and will have the courage to take firm decisions if needed.

Ignoring Current Corporate Culture

Change in organizations is challenging, but perhaps the most daunting is changing culture.  Change can only occur when people realize and recognize that their current organizational culture needs to transform in order to support the organization’s success and progress.

Failure To Grasp And Shape The Informal Organization

Organizations usually have networks and coalitions of people that are not visible on the formal organization chart.  These networks and coalitions help shape opinion.  They can either accelerate or retard change.  Ignoring or circumventing these groups can result in actual resistance.

Not Involving The Employees

Leaders must actively involve the people most affected by the change in its implementation.  Employees who are engaged in the change are more likely to put in the effort necessary to help implement the change and ensure a positive outcome for the organization.

Over-Reliance On Structure To Change Behavior

Structural and systems changes help create a new context and orientation and they have the surface appeal of being visible and fast.  But people do not become different just because you put them in a new context.  Structures and systems, by themselves, don’t change people’s behavior or give them new skills.

Ignore Decision-Driven V/S Behavior Dependent Change

Reaching new goals requires a mix of decisions and behavior change.  Decisions concern such things as market position, alliances, and product lines.  Behavior change asks people to act differently, gain new skills, or shift the organization’s culture.  Getting people to change their behavior requires a different mindset and a different set of leadership skills than making decisions about strategy.

Lack Of Skill And Resources

Business changes call for the right skills and resources.  Organizations often simply fail to commit the necessary time, people, and resources to making change work.  Paradoxically, successful behavior change often demands the very skills the change is trying to create.

Focusing Only On The Long Term

Large-scale organizational change is a long process. Breakdown your vision into smaller short term goals and communicate short-term successes at each opportunity.

Failing To Plan Small Successive Successions

An important part of sticking to the vision is to create opportunities to achieve smaller goals along the way. These will not only work towards achieving the desired change, but will create positive feelings of accomplishment and a drive to pursue the next goal.

“Most companies don’t fail for lack of talent or strategic vision – they fail for lack of execution. In leading businesses today, success is 5% strategy and 95% execution.” – Percy Barnevik, former Chairman Ceo ABB

Using The Wrong Indicators To Measure Progress

When a major change effort gets underway, executives often are scared off by the symptoms of their success. Don’t panic if you see problems vis-a-vis morale, job stress, loyalty, the trust level or job satisfaction. It could be proof that you are doing precisely the right things.

Assuming Change Is Done Once Initial Goals Are Achieved

If you declare victory too soon, the focus will be taken away from your efforts and all traces of your hard work will soon disappear. Successful companies consistently re-evaluate their change efforts to determine where other arrears can be improved, such as employee development and retention, new projects and new systems and structures.

Excessively Open Ended Processes

Achieving fundamental change in organizations is at least a 2 to 3 year process. But organizations often run out of energy or lose focus after 9 to 15 months.

Although implementing organizational change is complicated and complex, it does not have to negatively affect your company’s performance. HR needs to master how to lead the change process. To do this, HR needs to be effective at assessing the organization and its readiness for change, set the ground work for the change to happen, move forward to implement change and monitor its progress, help to sustain momentum, and know when it is appropriate to institutionalize change in an organization.

An Article by :


Mr. Arul Savio Pinto

Designation – Group Human Resources Manager (Change Management / Organization Development)

Company – ACWA Power -­( Dubai, United Arab Emirates)