Results for change projects are dismal. Only 20-plus percent of change projects succeed. The rest fail.
Why? It’s important for clients to know. It’s important for change practitioners to know. Especially since so many more people are showing up inside and out of companies and other organizations seeking to help with change.
There is truth to the notion that change is too dramatic a word. Change many times is incremental. It comes a little at a time over a long period of time. One of the best ways for a person or organization to tackle change is to focus on the significant.
But there’s more. Some of what change practitioners bring is process. And they have to be good at delivering it. Checklists, interviews, next steps, metrics. They’re all important. To deliver a successful change project means knowing how to match the right parts of the change process to the right people and places in an organization.
But there’s still more. In addition to process, it’s who the change practitioner is and how he shows up that is critically important. Daryl Conner, whose writing and consulting about change frequently breaks new ground, calls it character and presence. The two together are like fingerprints. No two people have the same; no two people are alike.
Character is what is left after all the illusions, evasions and elaborations are stripped away, says Conner. Presence is the voice of character that serves as its interface with the world. It either authentically represents your true nature or it doesn’t.
Some examples of character as expressed through presence: Listens, is helpful, collaborative, questioning, empowering others, looking from multiple perspectives.
The reason character and presence are so important is because they are the critical differences in better outcomes. Processes work when people in an organization trust and embrace the practitioners offering counsel. It works when practitioners know the art of leading change. It works when people inside the organization seeing the practitioner at work, feel comfortable and courageous enough to take the risks involved with change. In sum, it works, simply, where there is good chemistry.
And so it is that not every master change practitioner is a match for every organization, no matter how good she is. The metaphor to use here is jazz. Clients need to work with people whose music they like to hear. Practitioners need to work with people who like their music. This nexus is where the chances for successful change go way up.