Awards for The Most Common Traps in Change Projects

You see these pitfalls in action. They are more common than any of us would like to think. Sometimes more than one happens simultaneously.

Since it’s awards season, the nominees for The Most Common Traps in change projects include:

Under-communicating the vision

The project vision exists, but no one knows it. Stakeholders can’t tell you what success looks like. The vision statement sits on someone’s laptop from an offsite meeting.

The vision only benefits the transformation project when it inspires people. It is foundational to John Kotter’s 8-step process for Leading Change.

Pull it out. Feature it. Every. Chance. You. Get. It is not possible to over-communicate the vision. If stakeholders can quote it when asked, even better! Do not hide it under a bushel. The vision should never get old if you convey it creatively.

The marathon effect

I’ve blogged about this concept previously. When the senior leaders are so far out in front of everyone else, they forget it takes quite a while (months, even) for all associates to catch up. The messages must be repeated in what feels like endless fashion.

Different audiences need to hear the same message at different times. The same message must be repeated through different channels. When you sponsor the change, you may should feel like a broken record.

The larger and more geographically dispersed your organization, the more complex this challenge becomes. Find a way to translate the message to all audiences, in all locations, from a credible source. Keep at it. Don’t give up.

Thinking change is linear

Project managers build project plans using tools like Microsoft Project. Many of us love Gantt charts and find comfort in knowing what comes next. Fail to plan and plan to fail …  right?

However, human behavior is hardly so predictable. The reality is that change is messy and personal and individual … which rarely results in a linear, sequential outcome. People have to WANT to change and motivations vary widely.

Yes, apply strategies for leading change. However, research from experts like Patti B. Johnson shows that concepts like experimentation and adaptive persistence actually work. Try and then try again. Learn and make adjustments. Think of go live as the START of your change, not the END of your change.

Which trap listed above has your vote for the award? More than one? Feel free to join the conversation over Twitter using @People_Results #changetraps.

Betsy Winkler is a Partner at PeopleResults. She can be reached on Twitter @BetsyWinkler1. Sign up to receive the PeopleResults blog at Current.