Large-scale organizational change is occurring faster than ever and in multiple arenas, leaving leaders who have been trained to focus on one change at a time struggling to manage overlapping, never-ending processes.
Not surprisingly, up to 70% of organizational change initiatives fail.
In the new book Leading Continuous Change: Navigating Churn in the Real World, senior vice president Bill Pasmore provides a groundbreaking action plan for improving organizational leaders’ capacity to navigate and manage complex, continuous change.
“Technology, globalization, and M&A are accelerating the need for leaders to recognize multiple changes at once and quickly implement a plan,” Pasmore said.
“In the airline industry, for example, Virgin Atlantic has thrived because of its ability to adapt swiftly. Swissair, on the other hand, went out of business because it couldn’t keep up. We’re playing a new game where leaders must recognize change for what it is – not an isolated event but an ongoing part of organizational churn.”
Leading single-change efforts can be challenging when seemingly simple changes get out of hand, demanding more time, money and attention than predicted. Those challenges are magnified when leaders are faced with multiple changes that require increased prioritization, attention to integration, broader and deeper engagement and organizational agility.
Leading Continuous Change, released by Berrett-Koehler Publishers, provides a 4-step action plan for managing these complex changes:
- Discovering – While change is a necessity, not all change is a necessity right now. The Discovering process allows leaders to identify viable opportunities for change. Later, having identified these opportunities, decisions can be made about which ones to pursue.
- Deciding – Organizations have a limit to how much change they can handle. Until this capacity grows, leaders must try to avoid overloading the system. Deciding actions determine what must change to implement the organization’s vision.
- Doing – Whatever an organization’s current pace of change, it is probably too slow. Increasing the speed of change requires constant communication and engagement, but also a shift in how the organization thinks about and implements change.
- Discerning – Discerning is about learning how to respond effectively to complex, continuous change. In single-change efforts, learning is a low priority because the change may not be repeated. In complex, continuous change, learning what is working and what is not is a wise investment.
“Leading complex, continuous change is not a step-by-step, linear process; these 4 actions are all in constant interplay,” Pasmore said.
“Organizations cannot win by trying to do everything and doing most of it poorly. Leaders must make high-quality, well-informed decisions about where to focus their energy. Navigating complex, continuous change starts at the top. If organizational leaders don’t adapt their approach, no one else will.”
Leading Continuous Change: Navigating Churn in the Real World is available in print and digital formats on Amazon, Google Books, and other major outlets.
About Bill Pasmore
William “Bill” Pasmore, Ph.D., is senior vice president and global organizational practice leader at CCL. He is also a professor of practice of organization and leadership at Columbia University and was formerly a partner at Oliver Wyman Delta Consulting, part of the MMC Corporation. He is a consultant to CEOs of global Fortune 1000 firms on change, leadership, senior teams, and organization design and is a frequent speaker at corporate events and conferences.