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Clarity Institute / Insights

5 Mistakes companies make when managing change

Date: 01.09.2023

Category: Insights

By: Brad Deutser

The one constant we can rely on today is change. Most leaders do not want to talk about it – on the surface, it’s deemed too disruptive to the company. Instead, we are asked to downplay or sugarcoat the change by labeling it something it is not.   

To help navigate through change, we’ve collected the 5 most common mistakes we see when leaders manage change:  

Mistake 1: Calling "Change" Something Else  

The first mistake is the easiest to correct. Call "change" what it is…change! Explain what the change is expected to mean to the organization in the short, medium, and long term. People are more accepting of change when they understand the rationale and impact of it. When leaders don’t sound the alarm and tell the full story of change, it will invariably impact the organization in a negative way.  

Mistake 2: "Change the People" or "Change the People"  

As leaders, we have the ability and responsibility to "change the people" or "change the people." When we are intentional about the change by giving our people defined expectations, communications, and systems of support, we are able to better support our people. Although there are times when we must make changes that negatively affect people, but positively impact the whole of the organization.  

Mistake 3: Forgetting the Human Element of Change  

Companies don’t react to change – people do. Focusing on understanding and addressing the human element is so critical. Our companies are made up of people and people are complicated and have emotions. We have long accepted the fact that business IS personal. We must address our people with honesty and concern throughout every element of the process.  

Mistake 4: Setting Unrealistic Timelines and Expectations  

Change requires a commitment to strategic patience. Too often, unrealistic timelines and expectations are established for when change will be complete to appease boards, management, shareholders, and even employees (who just want it to be over). Change is rarely realized after something is rolled out once. It takes time for people to understand and ultimately adapt to new processes and build routines around them. It is important to set clear timelines and expectations around every element of the change.   

Mistake 5: Communicating Your Way Out of Change  

Simply communicating change is not the answer. Communication is important, but genuinely and honestly engaging leaders, and the workforce, around the reasons for change and the real impact of it is crucial for its acceptance. Too many people try to hide the downside of change from the employees — but the reality is that everything is knowable, and your employees are likely to be the first ones to find it out. When we are open and transparent, we create a more psychologically safe environment that encourages trust and employee voice.