10 Reasons Change Succeeds or Fails: Tight Integration and Alignment of All Initiatives

See all of the 10 Reasons Change Succeeds or Fails posts here. And download the full whitepaper here

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 tenth, and final, factor is tight integration and alignment of all initiatives.

In the previous posts, we have discussed the importance of developing a winning strategy that establishes the necessary change; building awareness through a compelling and urgent case and specific change criteria; creating desire through balancing decision-driven and behavior-dependent change and establishing a clear performance focus; leveraging knowledge by applying appropriate skills and resources and addressing structure and system requirements; and modeling the change through leaders demonstrating their own ability and willingness to change and by mobilizing and engaging pivotal groups.  Through those steps you have put the appropriate foundation in place and likely launched a series of initiatives – both to change how you operate as well as the necessary behavior and cultural changes.

The most effective organizations realize that they have lots of initiatives underway and must have many things in motion simultaneously to drive the needed transformation.  They also have a very disciplined process to keep all the plates spinning and to raise and resolve alignment issues before they get out of control.  How do those organizations ensure such tight integration and alignment of initiatives?

First, they focus on the interconnectedness of their initiatives.  They develop a clear picture of prerequisites and interdependencies.  They sequence their work accordingly and are disciplined about pruning out efforts that do not substantially contribute to the desired change.

Second, these organizations establish a central strategy deployment or integration management office.  Whoever leads this function must have deep leadership and management skills as well as organizational clout.  This office tracks progress of all initiatives, both decision-driven and behaviorally-dependent; it understands what remains to be completed and identifies any roadblocks and resource requirements.  They also measure whether initiatives are producing the desired outcomes – or if additional work is required.   This office isn’t necessarily leading the initiatives, but it has the authority to step in as needed, escalate decisions, and ensure that leadership has a common view of status and progress being made.

Third, they have an engaged and empowered decision-making process.  Appropriate project or initiative leaders, functional managers, and company leaders meet regularly to review progress.  They redirect resources to ensure that critical efforts stay on track so that dependencies are well managed.  They adjust project timelines as needed to keep everything in sync.  When competing demands arise, they consider how to best move all appropriate initiatives forward versus a start/stop/start cadence.

At the opposite end of the spectrum are organizations that feel overwhelmed by the number and variety of initiatives underway.  Managers and employees are confused about priorities or don’t see clear priorities when “everything is important.”  Key projects are under-resourced and falling behind.  Projects often conflict and appear to be pulling the organization in different directions.  Other initiatives are isolated and allowed to continue even if they will derail larger change efforts or aren’t producing meaningful results.  No one seems to have “the big picture” and decision making is fragmented “fire-fighting.”

Where is your organization on this spectrum?  If you don’t feel that you have a solid track record of tight integration and alignment of initiatives, consider the following:

  • Have you established clear values and principles that will drive prioritization?
  • Have you laid out a plan to sequence initiatives, considering their impact on one another? Does senior leadership align around the proposed sequence?
  • Do you have a centralized Strategy Deployment Office? If not, can you obtain the resources to establish one?
  • Can you identify the correct decision-making body? Are they already engaged in this work?  What information will they need to be most effective?
  • Do you have recovery plans if initiatives slip (as they often do) so that the whole change effort is not lost or the impact minimized?