April  23,  2024

Leading change management in your organization? These are signs you don’t want to see.


Any organization can go from Point A to Point B on a project, but if you want to get there in one piece and ready to reap the benefits, you need great change management. If your organization is on a change journey and you’re feeling uneasy, look for these signs you might be doing change management wrong.

1. People are telling different stories about what’s happening.

If there’s confusion surrounding the change, its progression, or the future state, it’s a clear indicator that something’s wrong. Clear and consistent communication is crucial at every stage of the change process to ensure that everyone understands what’s happening and why.

Make sure you have:

  • A simple message framework that outlines why the change is happening, what the change is, how you’ll move forward, and what the result will be.
  • Executives aligned on that framework, so they don’t need emails or PowerPoint decks to speak authentically on the change.
  • A change network of key people embedded in stakeholder groups.
  • Communication assets and channels to arm your change network as they spread the right information.

2. Employees are avoiding project activities.

Resistance often arises because employees simply fear what they don’t understand. They might worry about job security, lack of confidence in new skills or behaviors, or how their roles might change.

  • First, be as transparent as possible. If you don’t tell people what’s happening, they will fill those gaps on their own.
  • Second, allay those fears by building the right comparisons into your communications. Creating connections between your change and other experiences makes people feel it’s familiar, which turns off fear, makes the change feel valuable, and helps people remember it.

3. Employees are less happy.

A decline in employee morale and productivity is a big red flag that your change management approach is not hitting home with your staff. They might feel that they have no control over what’s happening, and they won’t be able to perform. Those in managerial positions might resist a change that takes away responsibilities or decisions.

Even a big, challenging project shouldn’t leave people down in the dumps. One cure for the slump is to create a sense of optimism for the future. That means two things: success and control.

  • Engineer small wins early in the project. Look for ways to make stakeholders think “I was successful with that. I can do something like this again.”
  • Then let them take the wheel for a bit. Involve stakeholders in decisions, mapping out the journey, and framing the new possibilities for their teams. Give them choices between solutions, locations, timeframes, etc. Having input into one’s future is a powerful boost. Adding choice, structure, and predictability makes a big difference.

4. Employees are saying it’s not right for their team.

If everything about your project just feels wrong to employees, or worse, directly conflicts with how employees work and succeed day to day, you’ll fail.

  • First, seek to understand your organizational or team culture. If you haven’t already, put it into words. List the unwritten rules for success in your workplace – things like values, norms, and communication styles.
  • Then, intentionally build them into the change management strategy and activities. If project communications and activities just feel right to people, you’ll foster acceptance and adoption.

5. You’re getting déjà vu.

Are you seeing or hearing about some of the same problems over and over throughout your project? Or are they similar to issues you faced during other projects? Maybe you’re not getting enough intelligence to act on. You need ways to capture and address feedback and lessons learned.

  • Early in the project, assess your change readiness in key areas. That will give you a chance to get ahead of issues.
  • During the project and after implementation, conduct pulse checks and gather stakeholder feedback through your change agent network.
  • Document lessons learned from the project team and stakeholder groups at the end of the project. Then make sure you store, share, and socialize them. Better yet, build “change history check” into your organization’s methodology.

Change is hard…

An organization’s change journey can make everyone feel uneasy, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Look for the signs discussed in this post to avoid doing change management wrong. If (and more realistically, when) problems pop up, turn them into opportunities. See these valuable signs for what they are, correct course and get your change management right.