Are These Mistakes Getting in the Way of Leading Transformational Change Successfully?

After more than three decades of supporting executives in organizations undergoing transformational change, we are in a unique position to recognize common mistakes in how change is being led across industries. Many of our clients ask how we can so readily name the challenging dynamics they face without having worked inside their organizations. The answer is, these are common mistakes, and they are not unique to any one organization.  

How Can You Tell if You are Making Some of the Common Mistakes?  

If you recognize any of the following symptoms, you might be making some of the common mistakes:  

  • Senior leaders are absent from guiding the way change initiatives are set up and run. 

  • Your project teams are confused about who makes decisions and who is responsible for what. 

  • There are so many change initiatives unleashed in the organization that the front lines are overwhelmed and resentful. 

  • Your stakeholders do not understand why they must change. 

  • Stakeholders are not following through on the changes asked of them. 

  • People who must make the changes complain they have no time given their extensive normal workloads. 

  • The level of commitment to change is inadequate to produce a sustained benefit for the organization. 

  • The scope of change is too small to ensure the desired outcome. 

These are just some of the patterns we see, time after time. To be effective in leading organizational change, you must be able to recognize if your organization is making any of these common mistakes, assess the risk of repeating them, prioritize high-level risks, commit to alter how you are leading change so you can mitigate the risky patterns, and consciously create change strategies to remedy them from the start and ensure a sound footing for your change initiatives. 

Below is a list of the ten most common mistakes we see that prevent major change initiatives from succeeding. 

Download the eBook: How to Navigate the Complexities of Your Organization's  Transformation

The Ten Common Mistakes in Leading Transformational Change 

As you read the mistakes, consider the degree to which your current change initiatives are at risk of each mistake and what you must do to mitigate those risks. These mistakes paint a very clear picture of how your change initiatives can be set up and led differently to achieve your desired outcomes with less cost and greater engagement. Think about how you could alter your change strategies from the start. 

  1. Lack of Relevance and Meaning: Not overtly linking the purpose of the change initiative to the market and business strategy to create clarity in the minds of your stakeholders about why you are changing and what it means to the people who must commit to and make the change happen
  1. Lack of Change Governance: Having unclear Change Leadership roles, structure, decision-making, and interface with normal operations

  1. Lack of a Strategic Discipline for Change: Leaders not providing a strategic discipline for how change initiatives are led across the organization—no enterprise change agenda or change portfolio, no common change methodology, and inadequate infrastructure and protocols to execute change strategies successfully

  1. Misdiagnosing Scope: Misdiagnosing the scope of the change initiative either in magnitude, or by initiating only technological or organizational initiatives, and neglecting the cultural, mindset, and behavioral requirements as legitimate aspects of scope

  1. Lack of Initiative Alignment and Integration: Running change through multiple, separate, or competing initiatives rather than aligning all initiatives as one unified effort and ensuring your overall change strategy integrates outcomes, plans, resources, and pace

  1. Lack of Capacity: Not creating adequate capacity to make the change in your strategy—setting unrealistic, crisis- producing timelines and then laying change requirements on top of people’s already excessive workloads; true for project teams as well as stakeholders making the change happen

  1. Ignoring Culture: Not adequately addressing the organization’s cultural norms as a major force directly influencing the success of transformational change and inhibiting adoption and sustainment of results

  1. Lack of Leadership Modeling: Leaders not being willing to develop themselves or change their mindsets, behavior, or style to overtly model the transformational changes they are asking of the organization; “Go change them!”

  1. Discounting of the Human Dynamics: Not adequately or proactively attending to people’s emotional reactions to making a change; not designing supportive leadership actions to minimize negative emotional reactions from the beginning; not attending to reactions in constructive ways once they occur

  1. Lack of Engagement and Communication: Not adequately engaging and communicating with stakeholders, especially early in the change process; relying too heavily on one-way top down communication; engaging stakeholders only after design is complete and expecting them to get in the boat by mandate

How Did You Do? 

Do you recognize your organization’s change leadership patterns in this list? Can you identify your most critical risk factors impairing your success from change? Would your senior change leaders agree with you? Discussing these common mistakes and having your senior change leaders assess their risk level is a great way to raise their awareness of the repeating patterns at play in how your organization--and your change leaders--are leading your mission-critical change initiatives. Gaining their aligned commitment to up-level how they are leading change is the first step in developing their change leadership capabilities. 

The Importance of Seeing Your Mistakes in Leading Change 

Once you and your senior change leaders are aware of your patterns, you can begin to plan how to lead organizational change differently. This is the start of developing better change leadership and designing success-producing practices that negate or overcome these habitual—and often unconscious—mistakes.



Related eBook:

The Ten Key Strategies for Leading Transformation

10 key strategies for leading transformation-1

Through 40 years of observing and supporting large-scale change and transformation in Fortune 500, government, global NGOs and public service organizations, we’ve identified these ten Best Practice strategies for leading transformation successfully.

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About the author

Dr. Linda Ackerman Anderson

Dr. Linda Ackerman Anderson is an international speaker, bestselling author, and strategic advisor to the C-Suite and change consultants world-wide. For forty years, Dr. Ackerman Anderson has been guiding visionary leaders of America’s Fortune 500 companies, government agencies and global non-profit organizations to transform themselves and their organizations to Achieve Breakthrough in business results, culture, leadership, and executive team performance. Linda is the co-founder of Being First, one of America’s most innovative transformational consulting firms, and, with her partner, Dr. Dean Anderson, a co-creator of Conscious Change Leadership, an advanced Body of Work that integrates personal and organizational transformation. Linda received an honorary doctoral degree from Brandman University, part of the Chapman University system, for this pioneering work. Linda co-authored two cutting edge books that have become classics in the field of organizational transformation: Beyond Change Management: How to Achieve Breakthrough Results through Conscious Change Leadership, and The Change Leader’s Roadmap: How to Navigate Your Organization’s Transformation. She and her co-author, Dr. Dean Anderson, have published over 50 articles on human performance and organizational change, and are the co-developers of The Change Leader’s Roadmap Methodology.