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How to avoid three common change management mistakes

Ahead of the Business School’s Leading Strategic Change Masterclass this November, Professor John Amis shares three pitfalls alumni should avoid when driving strategic change in their organisations.

Professor John Amis
Professor John Amis, Chair in Strategic Management and Organisation and Director of the Doctoral Programme.

Professor John Amis joined the University of Edinburgh Business School in July 2013 as chair in Strategic Management and Organisation. His research and teaching has centred on issues of  organisational and institutional change including a three year project that examined how a major new innovation management programme was adopted by a Fortune 100 firm in the United States.

This November Professor Amis will be leading a two day Masterclass designed to equip participants with the ability to understand when and why change is needed in business, and how to deliver it effectively and sustainably. In advance of the Masterclass, we asked him to share with alumni three pitfalls leaders should avoid when driving strategic change in their organisations.

Managing change

Organisations that can’t keep up will fall by the wayside. Which is why a whole industry devoted to managing organisational transformations has grown in recent decades, and why strategic change leaders are now hot property.

Yet more than two thirds of change programmes fail. More often than not, because of the same mistakes.

Why change fails

For alumni in leadership positions, we know navigating these organisational transformations is key to their day to day roles. So it’s important to know how not to get it wrong.

Lack of vision

It’s easy to check-off things that are wrong within an organisation, carry out a quick SWOT analysis, or come up with a mission statement. Most of us recognise these things are not vision, but they are all too often used in its place.

In fact, because they fail to engage with the fundamental requirements of effective change, such activities can be more damaging in the long run than taking no action at all.

Great change leaders understand the external challenges facing an organisation. They engage people at every level to build a collective sense of understanding of the transformation required. Only by doing so is it possible create a compelling vision, capable of driving the organisation forward.

Poor communication

People dislike change, especially when they feel it’s being imposed against their will. And if there’s a lack of communication, members of the organisation will be all too happy to fill the vacuum with their own speculation and rumours.

Strategic change leadership is about understanding how to use different modes of interaction for different messages at different times. Communication can mobilise people to engage with change, but if it’s not implemented effectively, it will quickly derail even the most well-planned change processes.

Declaring victory too quickly

We’ve all got a tendency to publicly pat ourselves on the back when we feel our initiatives have worked. Particularly if it gives us a chance – albeit a measured and professional one – to tell naysayers, ‘I told you so.’ But change is only effective if it can be sustained. It’s important to recognise how to institutionalise change so that what was once considered new and unusual quickly becomes taken-for-granted.

Declaring victory too soon can cause the good work already done to unravel rapidly.

Further information

If you are interested in finding out more about the Leading Strategic Change Masterclass on 24 – 25 November 2016, visit the Business School website for further information, course dates and booking details. There is a 20% discount for all University of Edinburgh alumni.

Related links

Professor John Amis staff profile

University of Edinburgh Business School

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