We have found that there are ten factors that determine the success or failure of any organizational change.  In this series, we will examine each of these factors.  The second is whether you have developed a compelling case for change.

Organizations that are most effective at driving change recognize the importance of creating a compelling and urgent case for change.  They are crystal clear on why and how they must evolve.  So, what makes for a truly compelling case for change?

First, organizational behavior change must create an awareness of the need for change.  Why won’t business as usual be sufficient in the future?  A clear case for change helps articulate the benefits to all your stakeholders for making the desired change – while also making clear the consequences of a failure to change.

Second, be clear about what must change.  Breaking old habits of behavior requires clarity of what you want done instead.  In the early stages of change, you may need to be more prescriptive about the change criteria.  Over time, as new behaviors are adopted, you may provide greater leeway to evolve and adapt.

Third, convey a sense of urgency.  What needs to change first?  Why can’t this wait?  Without this sense of urgency, you may have agreement about direction but find that progress is agonizingly slow, as change initiatives will be continuously deferred for what are perceived as more immediate problems.

Finally, a compelling case for change is dynamic.  It is updated to reflect changing market conditions and competitor actions.  While the direction should remain relatively constant, evolving the priorities and timing to reflect marketplace realities strengthens your case.

At the opposite end of the spectrum are organizations that lack a compelling case for change.  They may be unclear about the change required, why it is necessary, or both.  They fail to translate the case for change to articulate the benefits to all their stakeholders.  These organizations lack a sense of urgency and find themselves constantly diverted by the problem “du jour.”  Or they allow their case for change to become stale and not reflective of marketplace realities.

Where is your organization on this spectrum?  If you don’t feel that you have a compelling case for change, spend additional time to refine your case before attempting to make other changes.

Specifically:

  • Be clear about why this change is necessary.
  • Articulate how this change benefits your customers, employees, shareholders and other stakeholders.
  • Be clear about what needs to be different – be as specific as possible.
  • Create a timeline. What needs to change first and by when?
  • If you believe your case is directionally correct, start drafting the story and sharing it with others within the organization. Remember that you will need to repeat the story multiple times for it be fully understood.

See all of the 10 Reasons Change Succeeds or Fails posts here.