Change is a necessity in today’s world, yet change initiatives don’t always work out.
What is Organizational Change Fatigue?
One study has reported that only about 54 percent of change initiatives succeed. Another reports that up to 70 percent of organizational change efforts fail. Organizations of all types are urged to innovate, yet when they try to change too much, too fast, the result can be change fatigue.
When employees are overwhelmed by too much change, consequences can include lower employee engagement, higher absenteeism, and in extreme cases, greater turnover. Organizational leaders must accept that capacity for change is limited – at least in the short term. Preventing and overcoming organizational change fatigue requires employing fundamental best practices of change management. Here are five strategies that are helpful.
1. Zoom Out Your Perspective
When you take a high-level view of all the changes going on in an organization, it’s easier to see how certain individuals or departments may be overwhelmed with change. Regularly revisiting a top-level view of change can help with change management and help you take steps that can prevent and address change fatigue. In other words, it’s important never to lose sight of the big picture.
2. Prioritize Change Initiatives
As an analogy, suppose you want to remodel your home. While it would be great to jump in and get everything done at once, it’s usually not practical, since you still have to live there while everything is going on. Therefore, you prioritize.
Priorities with change management may be made because of budget, because of a strong necessity for change, personnel issues, or other reasons. However, you must prioritize to prevent a change deluge that can overwhelm personnel in the short term.
3. Create a Roadmap or Strategy for Change Over Time
Along with prioritization goes the process of creating a roadmap or strategy for change over the long term. This roadmap may itself have to be changed along the way, but having it as a guide benefits everyone. It’s important to communicate the change strategy to employees so they know what to expect and approximately when to expect it. Having an idea of what’s coming helps everyone prepare.
4. Continue Working to Strengthen Organizational Culture
Organizational culture is the substrate that “feeds” everything that everyone does in your company. Neglect it, and you neglect not only your employees but ultimately your clients and customers. Organizational culture is a living entity, wherein there is no endpoint. A strong, living, thriving culture is essential to innovation, and it’s also essential to helping everyone be open to and ready for changes.
5. Keep Lines of Communication Open
People can’t prepare for and implement change if they don’t know about it and understand it. How far in advance you need to inform everyone will be unique to your organizational needs. However, people do need to know change is coming, and they need to be able to communicate their thoughts and questions about it. One of the biggest ways that organizations induce change fatigue is by pushing change onto people without informing them and allowing them to be part of the change process.
Innovation and change are natural partners. Yet change is almost always stressful to some degree. Minding the big picture while prioritizing changes, developing a long-term strategy for change, tending to organizational culture, and keeping the lines of communication open are ways to prevent change fatigue and better deal with it when it happens. To learn more about change management and innovation, we encourage you to join our newsletter.
Organizational Change Fatigue Frequently Asked Questions
1. How can IdeaScale help my company overcome organizational change fatigue?
Idea management software like IdeaScale can help give your team a louder voice. You can collect feedback and buy-in for corporate culture and leadership innovation that can lead to cultural changes which improve leadership and change management. Learn more about our idea management software.
2. What causes organizational change fatigue?
Organizational change fatigue can be caused by evolutions and changes in the workplace that increase workloads or require new patterns, roles, or skills. Most of the time, fatigue comes from how the change is managed. Lack of support can be a big contributor to organizational change fatigue, which is why it’s important to make sure there’s a strong internal culture of communication.
3. How does leadership impact organizational change fatigue?
Leadership is key when implementing change. Personal advocacy and wisdom help provide vision, direction, and inspiration to others. Change leaders also help mentor their team through issues and frictions that may come with organizational change.
4. What are examples of organizational changes that can lead to change fatigue?
Changes that can lead to organizational fatigue include the adoption of new technologies, mergers and acquisitions, significant changes to organizational culture, as well as shifts in leadership. Crises can also lead to fatigue and can cause stress. Leading your team through changes and crises is crucial for avoiding burnout and ensuring smooth transitions.
5. How can I help my team better embrace change?
It’s important not just to set expectations, but also to explain why the change is necessary. Management research shows that people will more positively respond to change that they disagree with if they understand why it needs to be made. Honesty and clarity when communicating change are important. All of this speaks to the value of a decision-making process that is open, transparent, and has wide buy-in from the entire team.