It's not often to get to ask leaders from hundreds of businesses based locally, what they really think about the challenge of Change for their people.
I read a lot of research, and there is always a place for the big analysis pieces, reflecting the views of billion dollar businesses with millions of employees. But when it comes to business in Australia, we just don't get that big, that often. Most often that research is out of the US, and it's great for looking at broader trends but for the Aussie market - well it just doesn't tend to translate.
So when the opportunity arose at the recent HRD HR Summit in Brisbane, to ask leaders a question (ANY OLD QUESTION WE WANTED!) I could not resist asking what they were seeing as the biggest Change challenge.
I wanted to ask this question for four reasons:
there's a lot of talk about change fatigue at the moment and most change people I know are split into two camps about it - it's totally not a thing and it's a HUGE thing - so which is it?
I wanted to know are we playing up the talk about the difficulty of change too much or not enough in their businesses?
I was curious if there is something we are totally missing about the challenge of Change that leaders can highlight to us (ie let's leave an open area they can share something new we've not thought of)
I had a hunch that leadership capability was a key issue (but not leadership expectations)
So we asked and got more than 80 responses. Here's what they said when asked "In your opinion, WHAT'S THE BIGGEST CHANGE CHALLENGE PEOPLE FACE IN YOUR BUSINESS?"
Fatigue - clearly a factor and when we heard more from leaders this factored into rates of burnout, a range of mental health issues and impacts on productivity and outcomes as low energy leads of lower levels of focus and performance.
Number of Changes - this went hand in hand with fatigue as many leaders talked about the high number of changes happening. On a positive note, I talked with quite a few about the shift in their organisation to taking a portfolio view of change, and the thinking around planning when and how to impact teams with Change. I was incredibly lucky to spend my early years working in Enterprise Change and I've seen a lot of benefits for organisations, but it can be a new space for many businesses, as they begin to draw together a more strategic view. Of course, silos and the uncertainty of our environment are playing a big role in the success of these initiatives.
THE SHOWSTOPPER FOR ME - leadership expectations and capability.
What do we expect of leaders v what are their capabilities is something I'm passionate about and I think this is where we see individual Changes sustained and long term Change success for an organisation.
These numbers where incredibly interesting to me, and I'm keen to chat more with my people-related business colleagues to see what they think. For me it bears out my thoughts that we need to increase leader capability around Change, because the ability to successfully operate in this space is no longer 'nice to have', it's essential (especially in light of new legislation coming our way). So I agree, currently expectations are not too high for leaders in doing these things (they must do them), but I do see a big gap in capability. I work with a number of clients where this capability uplift in leaders is the core of the Change Strategy (I'm talking this is 70% of the work). It's hard work, needs expert support, and it's slower to gain momentum than a traditional plan. But the results are longer lived, and lead to every future Change being vastly more successful.
GOLDILOCKS??? - is change too hard, and how much should we talk about it?
Well isn't this interesting. I really find the idea that the numbers on talking about the challenge of Change are so low, and are equally split really fascinating. Some Change practitioners always talk about how hard Change will be, focus on the grief cycle and that's their sales pitch. I tend to go the other way and talk about capability, and what we already have.
What do you think? What do these numbers tell us and how could we talk more successfully about Change with our people?
I'll be writing a follow up blog soon, after our upcoming Supper Club this week where I'll be sharing these results with our invited guests to spark some lively conversation. There's sure to be some more great insights to share from that evening!
Share your thoughts here or email us on firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more about what we do to help make the Change process a little different.