10 Reasons Change Succeeds or Fails: Structure and Systems Requirements

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 seventh factor is being willing to make the changes necessary to meet the structure and systems requirements.

Organizations that are most effective at driving change understand that existing systems and processes were developed to support the existing business.  When trying to make a significant change, they recognize that many underlying systems and structures also need to change.  They organize their resources for maximum impact and put the right structure and systems (decision rights, processes, technology) in place for success.  How are organizations approaching structure and systems requirements for successful change?

First, these organizations use structure to achieve the maximum impact from any changes.  They don’t spread the peanut butter evenly across the organization – but rather focus the change resources on select markets or customers.  They are willing to pilot and experiment to learn what is most effective.  In some cases, this means adopting more of a “skunk-works” approach – delaying broad deployment until they have thoroughly tested and refined the approach.

Second, these organizations think about systems in a holistic fashion (e.g., not just IT systems).  Changes may be required in everything from compensation systems to prioritization processes to decision rights.  While the number of changes may be broad, the focused nature of the testing outlined above allows the organization to try alternatives that are not “ready for prime time.”  They wait to automate these systems until they have refined the approach, but once proven, they work quickly to fully implement the approach.

At the opposite end of the spectrum are organizations that lack a clear understanding of and commitment to the structure and systems requirements.  They routinely launch efforts or projects that are under-resourced, and it often feels like this is just additional work “in your spare time.”  These organizations are reluctant to undertake appropriate supporting systems and process changes or feel constrained by existing capabilities.  They often think of systems as only IT and use technology barriers (“We can’t,” “We don’t have the IT resources,” “We need to wait until this other project is completed,” “We can’t afford it”) as roadblocks.  They want a different outcome – but keep doing the same things. Or, they believe that organizational restructuring is the solution for everything and exhaust the organization with constant reorganizations.

Where is your organization on this spectrum?  If you don’t feel that you have a clear commitment to the new structure and systems requirements, spending additional time to refine your requirements will be a worthwhile investment before attempting to make other changes.  Specifically:

  • Are you clear about what resources are required for the change vs. those that are simply nice to have?
  • Can you articulate the minimum process and systems change requirements to obtain the change you desire?
  • Have you conducted a pilot to demonstrate the return on the required investment?
  • Have you considered how to best focus and deploy initial resources to obtain the maximum impact?
  • Can you identify other structural and systems changes that will be necessary to be effective?