The Speed of Change: Are Your People Keeping Pace?

We hear it all the time, the only constant is change and companies must be “innovative” (code word for constantly changing) to stay alive. But are your people changing with you?

Let’s face it, humans are fascinating. We are creative, curious, and adaptable – all great attributes to keep up with organizational change. But, are we?

According to Gallup, “The more things change, the more they stay the same – because more than 70% of change initiatives fail.”  With a failure rate of more than 70%, it’s obvious that people at all organizational levels can’t keep up.

The pace at which organizations are changing, creative, curious, and adaptable may not be enough. Agility and endurance are needed. Here’s how to build agile change capabilities and ensure your people have endurance for the pace and the journey.

Focus – With employees receiving dozens of high-priority messages a week from leadership, it is difficult for managers, who implement change, to understand the multi-level impacts and to prioritize changes. It is even more challenging for employees to grasp the significance of each “high priority” change and understand their role in the company’s transformation. With all change initiatives being equally important, employees succumb to change fatigue. Thus the importance of focusing on fewer, more impactful initiatives’ that deliver visible value and build the foundation for the next round of changes. Sometimes less really is more.

Additionally, focus requires coordination among functional groups. It is imperative that leaders in functional areas synchronize their changes to build and leverage synergies as well as evaluate the business users who will be impacted. Translation: Operations, HR, Finance, and Supply Chain should not have different enterprise systems rolling out at the same time to the same set of users. Rather, leadership should organize their changes in such a way that establishes the priority level for each change and builds on the previous change, making each subsequent change easier for the user.

Big things come in small packages – Everyone wants to be “transformational.” You see it all the time on do-it-yourself (DIY) home improvement projects. One single resource attempts to gut and redesign the kitchen, two bathrooms, and backyard.  Noble intentions that usually end up a mess, which is why a professional has to jump in a save them from their own home renovation.

This is not only true for the DIY handyman, but for leaders in charge of setting the direction for large scale corporate change initiatives. According to Gartner, “The failure rate of large IT projects with budgets exceeding $1 million was found to be almost 50% higher than for projects with budgets below $350,000.”  Smaller projects with less complexity reap big rewards. By not over-extending the budget or the time frame, you have essentially created time and money for the next incremental set of changes. Who doesn’t like more time or more money? Additionally, you can minimize any change weariness associated with change initiatives. Small projects are more palatable to the organization and thus easier to absorb in a meaningful way. Consider breaking up larger initiatives into smaller, more bite sized projects. This will drive quick wins, which will help employees feel a sense of victory with each successful implementation, building employee confidence in the organization’s ability to change in a meaningful way.

Responsiveness – You must be nimble and willing to change how you’re changing.  If something isn’t resonating or isn’t working, stop, regroup, modify, and start again. Persistence through challenges is great, but not if it jeopardizes the confidence your employees will have in the current and future change capabilities of the organization. We all understand budgets and timelines, but consider the cost of “re”…rework, replanning, rebudgeting, realigning, etc. All of the costs associated with “re” increase exponentially the longer we choose to ignore and not respond to challenges, issues, or lack luster results. So choose to be responsive rather than resistant to making modifications at the first sign of trouble.

In short, your employees must be prepared and ready to keep up with the speed of change in your organization.  Departmental, functional, or enterprise-wide changes are designed for sustainable improvements to an organization and employees can get tired easily. Help them successfully keep pace with the changes in your company by: remaining focused on the most impactful work; repacking large transformational initiatives into smaller, bite-sized projects; and being responsive at the onset of challenges.


May 24, 2013
“Most Change Initiatives Fail — But They Don’t Have To”
David Leonard and Claude Coltea

June 1, 2012
“Gartner Shows Why Projects Fail”
Lars Mieritz


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2 Responses

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  1. Lotty Turnidge
    Jul 11, 2015 - 08:11 PM

    Great article – thought provoking and totally hits the mark. Found it very useful – much to ponder

  2. Tanya Boyd
    Jul 15, 2015 - 03:42 PM

    This article captures some key components of successful change, but I am still wondering about the personal side. What can we do to help people become even more creative, flexible and adaptable on a personal level? If we do that, won’t that also help people keep up with the speed of change?