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Managing organisational change

Change is not easy and often leads to resistance. According to a McKinsey study, merely 26 percent of change initiatives succeed, and the one thing successful change initiatives have in common is that change is driven through empowerment, instead of being mandated from the top.

A different study suggests that 90 percent of CEOs believe their organisations will change more over the next five years than they did in the last five, and a workforce that is ready and able to harness change can make the difference between success and failure.

Understanding change

From leadership transitions and restructurings, to merges and acquisitions, there is a lot of change employees have to face, but they don’t always fully understand why these changes are happening.

Understanding change can be detrimental for any organisation trying to implement change. When employees don’t understand why change is happening, it creates a barrier to driving ownership and commitment. In many cases it can also result in resistance to change, which is a leading factor for why so many change initiatives fail.

Those responsible for leading change often assume that employees understand the reasoning behind them, and don’t spend enough time explaining the changes and why they are important for the future of the organisation. It is also helpful to use storytelling to clearly articulate the big picture – why change is important and how it will positively affect the organisation and the employees in the long-term. Change communication is not a one-off event, keeping employees informed throughout every step of the step process is an important factor in a transformation’s success.

The building blocks of change

Change initiatives are driven by a need to improve the status quo – whether focused on cost savings, improved customer service or changing markets. It’s important that this need is communicated as a vision for an improved future, rather than a disruption to business as usual.

Whilst most business transformation projects launch with an impactful communication campaign to build momentum, this approach can make those who are resistant to change even more sceptical. Most successful transformations begin with small groups united by a shared purpose, who are already enthusiastic and believe in the change, willing to test initial assumptions and gradually expand the team. For example, a major transformation to adopt lean manufacturing processes at Wyeth Pharmaceuticals began with a few small groups at a few factories and gradually spread to thousands of employees and cut cost by 25 percent.

Large business change projects are often associated with one impactful leader; however, a business transformation requires both leadership at the top and a strong group of stakeholders to succeed. It’s important not to solely focus on the immediate goals, but also the process of change.

At Acumen we pride ourselves in offering learning solutions that help leaders and their teams to drive success. We offer an extensive menu of courses, ranging from presentation skills through to customer service events and executive leadership development. Our Change Management programme is designed for those who are leaders of their own teams and who wish to implement change. The programme helps leaders to understand organisational change processes that include creativity and innovation through motivation, leadership and excellent communication; deal with resistance to change and create an empowered climate, built on trust and support. To find out more, please contact Simon at

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