Organizations today must remain flexible to meet customer needs. The reality is that two out of three change initiatives fail so companies that adapt have a competitive advantage. Propeller recently held a change management leadership panel with Beaconforce in San Francisco to identify and discuss best and worst practices for adopting change. Our experts included Peg Gerdes from Pacific Gas & Electric, Luca Rosetti from Beaconforce, Rachel Crocker from Propeller, Cindy Peterson from Macy’s, and Mark Rout from VMware. During the panel, we polled the audience to see how attendees felt change was managed in their organizations. Not surprisingly, only 14% of the audience felt their company was handling change well. To help increase this percentage, we highlighted panelist insights as well as our own expertise on what NOT to do when working with people to adopt new behaviors.

Mistake #1: Not including end users in the design process

Peg Gerdes provided an example of a project where a new technology was being rolled out to a group of users. Because the actual users did not have a seat at the table, their needs were not considered. The goal of the new technology was to make employee’s work easier. Unfortunately, the users wore gloves during their work and the technology required the use of bare hands.

It's important to create solutions together and always have users involved in the design of a new technology or behavior. Mark Rout, who leads change at a technology focused organization, also noted that we shouldn’t forget that we are human and having “empathy for users is the single most important piece of change management.” Including your users will create a sense of buy-in and will also identify risks with your implementation plan. Empathy for end users can also include being aware of how much change employees are experiencing at once. As Cindy Peterson noted, “changing too much at once can also result in failure.”

Mistake #2: Not having strong leadership or sponsorship of the change

Organizations that successfully transform ensure that senior leadership is on board with the proposed change and direction before developing timelines, budgets and resource plans. It is impossible to address every detail in advance, but leaders should agree on the overall objective and how it will be achieved. Without leadership on board, the change will be very difficult to execute and users will not be as willing to change. Even strong leaders can benefit from clear goals and understanding of the change. Luca Rosetti mentioned that “there isn’t an emotional intelligence MBA, so it’s our responsibility to develop our managers.”

Mistake #3: Not creating a reinforcement or incentive structure to support the change

In addition to strong leadership, without a strong incentive or motivation, change will be hard. An example from the health care industry is that oftentimes, physicians are not incentivized on value-based care delivery. Instead, they are paid for productivity. Influencing physicians to change their behavior if their financial incentive is based on an opposing goal would make adoption of the new behavior very difficult. To change someone’s mind, communicating clearly what’s in it for them is important.

Mistake #4: Not establishing a feedback loop

Providing people with a feedback loop is an extremely effective tool for changing behavior. Clear goals are important, but giving individuals a means to evaluate their progress greatly increases the likelihood that they achieve it. Make sure people know they are being heard and provide them the means to give feedback. Examples include organizing a town hall or using an internal social media platform.

Mistake #5: Not establishing measures of success

Change leaders should define measures of success early in a change effort and with more detail. KPIs that you can incrementally measure will allow for a tangible view of adoption. Examples include measuring employee morale or readiness at the beginning, middle, and conclusion of a change roll out.

If you’d like to read more about adopting change, be sure to check out our case studies and other blog posts. You can also take our free and brief change management assessment quiz to understand the risks and impacts of your specific change.