How mismanaging change is the biggest risk of all

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A four-year study by LeadershipIQ.com, which interviewed more than 1,000 board members from 286 public and private organisations that fired, or otherwise forced out, their chief executive found that the number one reason CEO’s got fired was …. wait for it …. mismanaging change.

Now business growth, even business existence, is built increasingly from such change; strategic change – new markets, new products, change driven through regulatory demand, change driven to maintain market share, change driven by mergers and acquisitions, changes driven by new executives, and so on.

Put those two parts together, a world where executives get fired on a regular basis for mismanaging change and a business world of increasing change, and you have a high-risk scenario it seems in many board rooms across the world.

There is no hiding away from change.

John F. Kennedy wisely stated that ‘Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.’

Whilst the consequences of not being a good leader of an organisation who both drives and manages change is apparent at a personal and career perspective, based on the above study, the impact on the organisation itself can be truly devastating, with massive amounts of time and money locked up in major programs of change that are not only failing to deliver the expected (and needed) business benefits but are distracting and disrupting that same business from its day to day operations. A kind of lose-lose situation.

It can be even worse than that with legal consequences, for the officers of the organisation, as well as the organisation itself, being a possibility when some change is not completed successfully.

I offer up five challenges to all organisations that are significantly change (and therefore project) driven:

  • The challenge of investing in the right portfolio dashboard (that simply means getting a good and accurate view from the very top)
  • The challenge of investing in real executive change sponsorship – those who are entrusted with being ultimately responsible for change
  • The challenge of investing in a chief projects officer (or similar title) supported by a PMO (Project/Program/Portfolio Management Office) to consider and direct the overall change programs across all parts of the business
  • The challenge of investing in the means to know the true status of your strategic change/project investment (having good analysis and good reporting and ultimately knowing, accurately, how it is all progressing)
  • The challenge of investing in professionalising the project capability and competence within the organisation (professionalise your project management) – whilst the executive sponsors are the ones ultimately entrusted with each change they need the supporting partnership of a competent project leader
  • Change is inevitable and risky; it needs to be taken seriously.

Peter Taylor is the author of How to get fired at C-level: Why mismanaging change is the biggest risk of all. Out now, price £14.99