Change is a 'norm' of organisational life, yet something people often struggle to manage effectively. I knew that instinctively, but when I went researching for some stats about the success – or otherwise – of change projects even I was surprised.
Here are some of the sobering stories I uncovered:
There are, naturally, a whole host of different reasons why many projects, products, mergers, start-ups, new recruits and other change initiatives fail to deliver on expectations – and there's plenty of advice in my course about how to avoid this sorry state of affairs. However, what struck me most about this list was that failure is an extremely common – in fact often the most likely – outcome, yet, as Fast Company point out it's something we usually fear, refuse to accept and avoid talking about.
Talking about failure isn't just a good antidote to the disappointment of things going wrong. It has also been shown to help organisations learn more than when their projects succeed – to the extent that, for example, airlines with more experience of failure are paradoxically those with the lowest number of accidents.
So what steps can you take to get failure on the conversational agenda in your organisation? Here are my recommendations (inspired by business consultant and psychologist Debbie Stocker's great advice on breeding success from failure):
Your natural reaction in reading all this may well be that you'd rather you never failed in the first place. In some instances that could be bad for your career; the co-founder of holiday rental marketplace HomeAway actually seeks out employees who have a healthy familiarity with failure. So, next time you're involved in a new initiative in your organisation, be prepared for things to go wrong, keep talking and – most importantly – keep learning.
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