Top mistakes to avoid when implementing changes

Driving changes in an organisation can be challenging and complex. As a result, 70% of initiatives fail. But it can be achieved by having a few strategies in place, thus avoiding setbacks. Among them is defining the scope, choosing the correct working method, and making resources available (people, budget, time). Here are the top 7 mistakes to avoid when implementing changes.

Not having a clearly defined scope

Changing a business is much more complex than starting one. Ask any business owner. Once you are up and running, your company becomes a complex ecosystem where people interact and are linked by goals, processes, responsibilities, and… habits. Changing that, even if it was for a better future, is complex. Therefore, defining a clear scope of what needs to be done is crucial. Too general or ambitious goals will only confuse people and bring little progress. Less is more, and if need be, break your big ambition into smaller projects with achievable scopes.

Using the wrong methodology (agile vs waterfall)

Implementing changes is challenging, and using the suitable project methodology can either help you succeed or fail altogether. Choose depending on the nature of your business and the company’s culture. Agile is an iterative method that incorporates a cyclic and collaborative process. The waterfall is a sequential way of working that can also be collaborative. Still, tasks are generally handled in a more linear approach. Agile is great if your business is about innovation, focusing on creativity and newness. Waterfall performs better in more predictable, functional and repeatable processes. In addition, agile works grand with OKR and waterfall with clearly defined strategic KPI’s.

Not setting timeframes

Not having clear timeframes on when to start and finish a transformational project is a recipe for disaster. Implementing a change could extend forever because there is always a way to improve things. Setting milestones, deadlines, and thresholds gives guidance and clarity to the teams, partners and suppliers who take part in this journey. Thus, they can get organised, schedule activities, plan for budget and expenses, and get things done. 

Avoiding accountability

Making changes implies assuming responsibilities. However, during a transformation, it is often unclear who is responsible for what and what is the escalation path when things don’t work or get delayed. This lack of transparency leads to confusion, inability to agree on priorities and delays. As a consequence, progress can be affected. Use the RACI matrix (make a copy of the file) to define responsible, accountable, consulted, and informed.

Lack of transformational KPI’s

During the implementation of change often KPI’s are misunderstood. The company’s KPI’s are one thing; the transformational KPI’s are another, completely different thing. The first ones tend to be lasting. The second are only meant to measure transformational success and disappear when changes are implemented. It is essential to have them as clear guidance for the teams to adhere to schedule and control budget spending. Examples of such KPI’s are the number of sprints completed in time, number of employees trained in agile or lean, adherence to project budget and timeframes. An even better strategy would be sharing them openly with everyone in your organisation – it is a powerful way to motivate.

No empowerment

Lack of empowerment to make decisions is a considerable handicap to implementing changes. The team leader can take prompt decisions as the transformation project needs them. Not being able to do so causes delays, demotivation and giving up. If you fear that things might go out of control if you empower, put in place transformational KPI’s (explained above) to monitor performance.

Lack of sponsorship

Any transformational initiative is a temporary endeavour, and it comes on top and above work as usual. It needs financing, management and supervision. A sponsor is a business leader who plays a crucial role in promoting, advocating and shaping project work. They oversee the transformation and are accountable for ensuring the realisation of the specified benefits over time. Conversely, lack of sponsorship leads to the day-to-day business taking over the long term goals by not putting resources in place.