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Jamie Lawrence


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Only a quarter of employers achieve long-term gains from change management initiatives


Just a quarter of organisations are able to keep the momentum of their change management initiatives going over the long-term.

This is according to a new survey by professional services firm Towers Watson, which found 55% of employers say change management initiatives meet their initial objectives. However, just one in four (25%) say the gains achieved are sustainable.

The survey says that companies’ inability to prepare and train managers to be effective change leaders is partly to blame.

Change management initiatives run the gamut from small-scale changes in policy to business transformation, buy-outs and mergers and acquisitions.

Nicola Cull, senior change management consultant at Towers Watson, said: “The organisations that are able to sustain change over time are those that focus on the fundamentals that we know drive successful change: communication, training, leadership engagement and measurement. And despite nearly uniform acceptance that these are the key drivers of change, the companies that are not good at them are not getting any better.”

According to the survey, most companies recognise that managers have an important role in managing change, but while nine out of 10 respondents (87%) claim to train managers to manage change, less than a quarter (23%) report that this training is effective.

“Managers are a catalyst for successful change. Now is the ideal time for organisations to look at this lingering problem from a new angle, focusing on the manager’s role. For managers to succeed at spearheading change, companies need to change their approach, train managers more effectively and do a much better job of communicating with them,” said Cull.

According to Towers Watson research, just two-thirds (68%) of senior managers say they understand the reasons behind major organisational decisions. This drops to 53% for middle managers and 40% for first-line supervisors. 

2 Responses

  1. Good point

    Change takes time and this is unpalatable when time is money, but the more we learn about human beings the more we have to realise that buy-in to change – however long it takes – is crucial to understanding the long-term benefits and to avoid any damage to the psychological contract.

    Glad you enjoyed the piece – I've actually got a follow-up interview with Nicola coming up in the next few weeks so look out for that, I'm going to ask her to expand on some of the themes in this piece.

  2. Maybe our iceberg is melting?

    Great little article.

    Nicola's findings support the need for change managers to follow a well-structured approach to change that starts with lots of communication and stakeholder management. Kotter has been banging this drum for a long time.

    The challenge is to persuade senior teams to allow enough time for change-ideas to be properly sold-in, absorbed and accepted. And for the appropriate approaches to be adopted to do this.

    Poorly-managed change programmes are – in my experience – often executed to unrealistic time-lines and inflated expectations.

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Jamie Lawrence

Insights Director

Read more from Jamie Lawrence

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