In my previous blog, 5 common change management mistakes I explored some critical errors organisations make during change initiatives.

The top 5 change management mistakes I identified were:

  1. Poor sponsorship support
  2. Not explaining why change is necessary
  3. Not listening to or engaging employees
  4. Underestimating resistance to change 
  5. Leaving change management too late

I recently invited some colleagues and contacts to suggest what they would add to the list.

The response was enthusiastic!

In this sequel blog, I share the additional common mistakes in change management, incorporating the ideas shared by our contributors. I’m very grateful for the valuable input from change professionals across various industries worldwide.

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7 more common change management mistakes

  1. Failing to prepare for post-go-live
  2. No managed transition into Business as Usual (BAU)
  3. Forced top-down decisions which compromise project direction
  4. Doing to, rather than working with the organisation
  5. Failure to identify risks and implement mitigations
  6. Inadequate understanding of change and its impact
  7. Underusing change influencers

1. Failing to prepare for post-go-live

Helena Miles, MD of Change Associates, highlighted the oversight of needing to prepare for the post-go-live phase of a change project adequately.

Organisations often invest significant time and effort in planning and executing the implementation but fail to anticipate the challenges that arise once the change is live. Helena has shared her expertise in her recent blog post, Go-Live is Just the Start of Change, which provides practical guidance for navigating this crucial phase.

2. No managed transition into business as usual 

Steve Mulhall, a seasoned Change Programme Lead and Podcaster, built on Helena’s point, emphasising the importance of a smooth transition into BAU.

Change initiatives should include well-defined plans and processes to ensure the desired outcomes are sustained after implementation. Failure to do so often results in reverting to old ways of working, rendering the change efforts ineffective.

Organisations must consider the long-term sustainability of change and invest in the necessary support systems and resources.

3. Forced top-down decisions which compromise project direction

One of the challenges faced by change professionals, also highlighted by Steve and our own experiences, is the clash between forced top-down decisions and the planned direction of the project.

Leadership may impose decisions that compromise the agreed project objectives in a number of ways, such as 

  • Changing positions about how things should be achieved
  • Adding items into scope without understanding the impact or adjusting timescales
  • Failing to sign off project stages or assets and still expecting timescales to be met
  • In the worst-case scenario, imposing decisions that directly contradict the project’s stated objectives.

Some decisions create frustration and confusion, undermine stakeholder confidence, and hamper the successful execution of the change.

Alignment between leadership and project teams is essential to maintain a clear and consistent path forward.

4. Doing to, rather than working with the organisation

Fionnuala O’Conor, a change management and digitisation consultant, raised the crucial need to work with the organisation rather than doing change management “to” it.

True engagement is more than running events and telling people what’s planned; it requires active participation at every stage. By fostering genuine collaboration, listening and soliciting (and acting on) stakeholder input, organisations can create a sense of ownership and empower employees to drive real change.

5. Failure to identify risks and implement mitigations

Carlo Bonato, a senior expert in Lean Manufacturing and Supply Chain Management, emphasised the importance of risk management during change initiatives.

While many projects maintain risk registers, often, these risks are not adequately addressed through practical strategies. Identifying potential risks and proactively implementing mitigations can minimise disruptions, enhance stakeholder buy-in, and increase the chances of successful change implementation.

6. Inadequate understanding of change and its impact

Laura Zaccardi, a change consultant and coach based in the US, emphasised the risk of assigning individuals who lack a comprehensive understanding of the intricacies of change and its potential impact on stakeholders.

The inexperienced tend to see change management as a simple case of training and communications, resulting in oversights and poor outcomes.

Kristen Barrows Henderson, an experienced Change Management Director, raised the significance of understanding the change’s impact on different audiences.

Whether categorised by worker type, location, or business unit, each group may require tailored support to navigate the change effectively. Organisations must conduct thorough impact assessments to develop targeted change and communication strategies that address the unique needs and concerns of diverse stakeholders.

Organisations should ensure that change leaders possess the expertise, experience, and skill set to guide the change process effectively and anticipate how different audiences may be affected. 

7. Underusing change influencers

Shane Lee, Client Director at Preos Workday Optimization, talked about the mistake of not making the best use of influencers who support the change.

Change influencers are people within the organisation who have clout and credibility among their peers. They play a pivotal role in driving change adoption and acceptance. It’s all too easy to overlook the power of these influencers and fail to engage them throughout the change process. By identifying and actively involving change influencers, organisations can tap into their networks and amplify their impact on driving successful change.

Change management is a complex endeavour, and organisations often encounter various pitfalls along the way.

By acknowledging and learning from these common mistakes, we can enhance our change management practice and improve the likelihood of successful transformations. It is crucial to prioritise post-go-live readiness, ensure a seamless transition into BAU, align top-down decisions with project direction, foster genuine participation, implement risk mitigation strategies, understand the change impact on different audiences, entrust change leadership to capable individuals, and use the power and networks of internal influencers.

By avoiding these pitfalls, organisations can pave the way for transformative change and sustained success.

Contact us for expert guidance and support in navigating change and driving successful transformations. Together, we can turn your change initiatives into impactful and lasting outcomes.

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Charlotte Gatehouse