Six Change Blockers to Mitigate to Win the Change
July 12th, 2022 | From our CEO
20 years ago, I was involved in the most challenging organizational change exercise I have ever been part of. It had all the cultural complexity and people clashes; you can imagine. A US capital fund acquired six Eastern European companies with the intent to merge them into one. Afterward, I wrote a case study about my experiences as part of my MBA, which then later in anonymized format was integrated into the curriculum for future students. The professors loved the story. In my view, the exercise was doomed for failure right from the start.
In retrospect, I would have liked to know what I know now. Then, I could have backed my gut feeling with the evidence, I will share with you now and saved a lot of people’s frustrations and money.
Change Data Has Revealed Six Change Blockers to Mitigate for Every Change
Innovisor has in the last 3-4 years studied and analyzed patterns and signals in the change data, we have collected from change programs in the previous 15 years. Our objective has been to revolutionize how to succeed with change together with your people. In this work, we identified #SixChangeBlockers, which you must mitigate if you want to win the change.
If I look at these six change blockers, then the project should never have been continued. I wish we could have run the Innovisor Prescriptive Intelligence model. It would have told us that we should have stopped the exercise immediately. We had no chance of success.
Let me share how the exercise failed each of the six change blockers.
Leadership Team Did Not Work as ONE
The leadership team was everything else but a team. Each person had its own priorities and workstreams – not caring about the others. Each position in the team had been hired by Executive Search teams from different companies. Only one leader from the six companies was allowed to stay. The leadership team did not hold any joint meetings in the first 4-5 months, as they were waiting for the new CEO – a former Olympian who fled during the 1984 Olympics – to arrive.
The Internal Networks Were Disconnected
Six companies of equal size being merged into one – coming from six locations – some in rural areas, some in the capital – was a disaster for the ability to create good coherent social networks. People openly disliked each other.
While I did not know, what we know now after 15 years of analyzing networks, I am certain that these networks were more fragmented and disconnected than most other organizations Innovisor has worked with.
Employees Did Not Commit to the Company
Nobody liked the way the Capitol Fund acted. It was not human. It was not caring. It came to the point, where we even experienced sabotage of computers and IT servers, as we tried to move forward. The employees wanted the organization to fail, and if they had had the opportunity or another job, they would have left immediately.
The Key Stakeholders Did Not Support the Change
The two key stakeholder groups are the leadership team and the 3% of employees that shape the commitment of 90% of their colleagues (aka #ThreePercentRule of Innovisor).
While I do not know the 3% in the company back then (We did not break the gordian knot behind the #ThreePercentRule algorithm until 10 years ago), I can say that the general sentiment was one of resistance. Everybody jockeyed for keeping their jobs and positions, as high unemployment and financial uncertainty caused a lot of personal worries. Even worse those who could find a job outside the company did, and were very open in the informal chit chats about their intent to do so.
Leadership Did Not Follow Through on the Plan
In this case, the top leadership team and the capital fund failed to follow up on progress with a proper frequency. Real follow-up from the capital fund was after 18 months – they clearly moved on to their next investment, and the new CEO – a former Olympian, who fled his home country during the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles and now had returned – never engaged in a change plan that could be followed up upon. He only studied the sales numbers …. which unfortunately all headed south.
The Project Team Was Not Set-up For Success
We had 14 different nationalities on the project team. A lot of lone wolves and adventurous individuals moved into the project team. When they faced the challenging project conditions, the ice-cold dark winter, and the long work hours, many decided to move on after some very short stints. Hence, resources were an issue.
So was the quality, as the Big5 consulting companies started to pour young consultants fresh out of university into the project. Youngsters read ‘the manual’ at night and then consult the next morning.
In Retrospective, A Change Hard to Rescue
The company failed on six out of six change blockers, Innovisor has identified.
If the company had scored poorly on one or two of the 6 change blockers, we could have rescued the change with persistence, engagement, patience, and resources. With six out of six scoring poorly, the time and resources of the capital fund were better invested elsewhere, or the strategic intent needed to be redefined.