“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas A. Edison

One of my all-time favorite quotes is the one above. Consider the principles of grit, tenacity and resilience laced within that statement. Powerful, right!?

It also speaks to the fact that spearheading, affecting and maintaining change is HARD. In fact, Towers Watson, a global professional services company, found that only 25 percent of organizations are able to sustain gains from change management initiatives over the long term.

Related Post: Business Processes and Systems: Do All Signs Point to Change?

Like Edison suggested, there can be a high probability that our change initiatives will fail—and often it’s not for a lack of trying, strategy or ideas. Rather, these initiatives fall flat because of the execution. Let’s take a look at the common barriers to change…

We Focus on Changing the Wrong Things

Consider the following. For years, your sales reps have documented every client interaction—and critical client data—in separate account spreadsheets. You decide to introduce a customer relationship management (CRM) system, but your reps still prefer to use their spreadsheets. Increasingly frustrated, you schedule a series of CRM onboarding and training sessions to accelerate user adoption. But, alas, your reps still resort to spreadsheets.

Your gut reaction may be to amend the trainings to elicit greater adoption. But the real problem that likely needs to be addressed is how the CRM is configured. For instance, are the client and account dashboard views displaying information that the sales rep actually needs? Is it mobile friendly? Is it intuitive? Instead of jumping to user adoption, you probably need to first address the usability of the software.

Many times, we as leaders fail to really understand what needs changing and therefore we change what doesn’t need to be fixed or focus on the wrong behaviors. Organizational challenges typically fall predominantly into one of three categories: people, process or technology. Make sure you are focusing on the right category to successfully bring change into your environment.

We Change Too Slowly

All too often, we watch our favorite sports team play with a lack of urgency for most of the game. Then, out of nowhere, the team comes together with an intensity to win. Tom Brady, quarterback for the New England Patriots, has led his team to 39 fourth-quarter career comebacks.

During this year’s Super Bowl, the Patriots had trailed by 25 points midway through the third quarter. Near the tail-end of the game, the Patriots managed to turn that deficit into just eight points and, with two minutes remaining, they scored in four plays and added the two-point conversion to force overtime. During the second half and overtime, the Patriots scored 31 points and took their first lead at the very end. The end result? New England 34 and Atlanta 28.

To lead change, our job is to create that “two-minute drill” urgency every day—ensuring that change happens now and not after it’s too late.

We also have to be prepared to answer the question, “How do you eat an elephant?” One bite at a time by recording the small victories along the way and routinely communicate about our progress. If our teams don’t see progress, they get disillusioned, overwhelmed and incapable of getting their heads around what needs to happen to successfully move change along.

Our Team Isn’t ‘Bought In’

Where innovation typically comes to a screeching halt is at the point after cutover, or when a new technology or process is introduced to the organization. That’s because user adoption is a tricky, complicated practice.

To effectively introduce change to your organization, your employees—and I mean beyond the C-suite—need to believe in the need for the change. They need to understand and agree with the urgency driving the need for change, as well as unite around the solution for tackling the business obstacle.

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Research by the Towers Watson report shows that 68 percent of senior managers feel they’re “getting the message” about the reasons for major organizational changes, but that figure drops to 53 percent for middle managers and 40 percent for front-line supervisors. Imagine what the average employee gets from the message.

As leaders of change, we must be the coxswain of change. We must steer our organizational change, provide motivation and encouragement, communicate progress and ensure that everyone is rowing in the same direction.

Affecting Organizational Change

Last week, we held our Trilix VIP Launch Party—a night to celebrate the official launch of Trilix with some of our clients, community friends and partners. It was a fantastic night and it led to some all-important conversations about change.

One of the key sentiments we shared is that though it can be hard and uncomfortable to talk about the process and systems issues holding your organization back from transformation, it’s a necessary conversation to have. You need to begin asking questions like:

  • What is my number one business obstacle?
  • How is this business challenge holding my organization back from transformation?
  • What is the impact of this challenge on my employees and public perception?

It’s only when you start asking these questions that you create an environment in which change begins to have a fighting chance.

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