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  • Writer's pictureKeith Wells

Why take a chance on change?

In 1996, John Kotter wrote that 30% of change programmes fail. In 2022, the figure is still the same. Do we never learn? Well, possibly: one of those big consulting firms with a single name recently issued their findings that by dealing with "the soft stuff like the hard stuff" that success rate might increase to something like 80%.

Welcome to the game, chaps. And to the realisation that change creates resistance in people, which is important because any change is ultimately reliant on people making it.

I'm not going to argue against Kotter's famous eight steps, but I do offer a simpler alternative, with a different starting point and focus. For me, and the clients I've worked with, it's all about the brand and how that definition answers five critical questions for everyone in the organisation:

  1. What do we stand for?

  2. Where are we going?

  3. What do we need to be great at, to get there?

  4. What's expected of me?

  5. What's in it for me?

Remembering that it's the people who deliver change, it's also important to recognise that it is a double-edged sword. The Mandarin expression of 'change' comprises the characters representing 'risk' and 'opportunity', and leaders need the empathy to gauge how people might be feeling either, or both, at all stages of the programme. Yes, of course it can (should) be an exciting time, but it can also be exhausting - especially when people don't really know how far they've come or how well they're doing.

So, communication is critical, all the way along. You can never start too early, or do too much - and you should never stop, believing the job to be done. If change is a constant, so is the brand.

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