5 Organizational Change Pitfalls PPM Leaders Should Avoid

How to reduce change fatigue and avoid slowdowns to digital transformation.

Your company has embarked upon digitalization, and as a program and portfolio management (PPM) leader, you know that digital business introduces new ways of working and new organizational changes.

Organizational change efforts are not ‘one size fits all’

“While PPM leaders should embrace new practices that enable fast digital delivery, it is challenging,” says Mbula Schoen, Senior Principal Analyst, Gartner. “Organizational change efforts are not ‘one size fits all’ — change happens at different speeds for individuals and stakeholders.”

The increasing pace of organizational changes such as reorganizations, facility moves and team changes, if left unmanaged or unchecked, can cause employees to suffer from change fatigue and develop an aversion to additional changes.

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Gartner has identified five pitfalls to help PPM leaders avoid behaviors, actions or decisions that could slow down or block change success in their digital transformation programs.

No. 1: Inconsistent messages

When a new digital business initiative is being communicated internally, it is common to find that employees and management executives don’t have the same interpretation.

In the absence of clear and consistent information, people tend to assume the worst. PPM leaders must be particularly careful to connect the vision and “enterprise speak” with the tactics and define the context. They need to align everyone, particularly senior management, with a common story and message, before cascading communications throughout the organization.

No. 2: One-size-fits-all mentality

Many leaders assume that change will be embraced at the same time and at the same speed by everyone involved. In reality, the change process and the acceptance of change happens at different speeds for any group of people.

Identify the different segments of the organizations affected by a change by their ability to adapt. The goal is to avoid frustration, making sure that those who are participating in the change receive the information, support and motivation they need at the time they need it.

No. 3: Turnkey adoption expectations

In traditional programs, efforts focus on the technology to support the team, with little emphasis on the coming changes for the user. For users, change is often completed with training. They retain a small percentage of what they learn in a training class, which leads to frustration with doing things the new and unfamiliar way.

PPM leaders leading change have a choice to either view them negatively as threats to be overcome, or as positive opportunities

A successful organization change plan includes tactics to nurture and sustain fragile new behaviors and work skills. PPM leaders need to build time and resources into the project plans to support this employee learning period. The minimum time is three months, and likely six months for most business transformation efforts.

As performance is likely to decline during this time, and frustration can run high, PPM leaders must also budget or plan for organizational change management resources to be available before, during and after implementation.

No. 4: Change fatigue

Digital business transformation will have multiple projects, and a single stakeholder group often may be overwhelmed by multiple changes that are occurring simultaneously.

This creates change fatigue. It can result in employee burnout, turnover and errors. PPM leaders need to shift their thinking about what causes a change impact to a stakeholder group. For example, they should obtain a full, accurate view of the amount of organizational change occurring at any point in time to avoid the organization being vulnerable to change fatigue.

Ignoring change fatigue is a key contributor to change failure. PPM leaders must demonstrate an awareness of how much change employees are experiencing by sequencing periods of change followed by time to master new skills.

No. 5: Confusing challenges with resistance

Often, change leaders embark on initiatives with the preconceived expectation that resistance is the greatest hurdle and threat to success. In reality, however, challenges and struggles are positive indicators of adopting a new way of thinking or acting.

“As a result, PPM leaders leading change have a choice to either view them negatively as threats to be overcome, or as positive opportunities for integrating and strengthening the change adoption process,” Schoen says.

PPM leaders need to foster an open environment for questions, challenges and suggestions to not only engage, but also support, those who are struggling, rather than labeling them as “resisters.”

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