Would you be shocked if I told you that 70% of all digital initiatives do not reach their goals? I was not suprised to read about it last Spring on Harvard Business Review. I do admit, I did have a hunch about the number, but never could I have imagined it to be so high.

Sadly, on many occasions the change organizations want to achieve are designed, executed and measured using the wrong methods. In worst case scenario, change management ends up being at the bottom of the list, to be addressed ’eventually if there’s enough money and interest’.

I’m going to make a bold statement and say that we all ought to forget change management. Change is not a separate project add-on which a company can then integrate into their operations. Change management should be the beating heart of any organization and an integral part of everyday working culture.

Tech blindness and idolizing projects mislead the leaders

Unfortunately, many (otherwise clever) leaders think that technical solutions can tackle any organizational challenge. Many leaders automatically turn to AI, robotics and cloud solutions when wanting to develop new and interesting business solutions. This kind of technology-first addiction often leads to a disaster. If one tiny part of an organization takes on a grand ’change project’, it does not mean that the results will then automatically spread to the rest of the organization.

Instead, a visionary leader dares to take a look at the big picture, past technical details. For a change to succeed and be sustainable, it is important to begin by adjusting the organization’s mindset – before starting a single project.

A smart leader coaches their organization to manage the effects of change, and not change themselves. The questions to ask first are:

  • What are we aiming for?
  • Who will be affected by the change – within our organization and with our customers?
  • How do we measure change?
  • And how do we reinforce the change to be sustainable?

Training is not enough –adoption to change has to be supported, too

We are lazy animals by nature. No matter how many new working methology courses we may take, when faced with any tricky situation, we’re quite happy to go back to the same old patterns and methods we used before.

This is why the training of staff is less important than what happens after the training is over. In addition to training, the organization must provide permanent support for change adoption. Training aftercare works if the organizational structures, capabilities and competencies are tuned to support the change.

When faced with a problem, not a single member in an organization should be left alone. They should always have easy access to information regarding the new ways of working. Colleagues and supervisors play a key role in providing assistance, which means their commitment to change must be supported in all ways. Practical ways to establish a culture of change can include competitions between teams, highlighting and rewarding success, and communicating the effects of change both internally and externally.

How do you measure change?

The third common stumbling block on the path to change management is measurement. In many cases, measurement ends in the wrong tracks as early as in the planning stage. If technology is the starting point and the desired change is considered a single project, it is measured as any development project. The most important indicators, in this case, are schedules, budget and delivery of “ordered goods” instead of change progress.

If, on the other hand, change is understood through its effects, the most important metrics really take the stage. What kind of new knowledge is needed? Have the new ways of working taken root in our everyday lives? Are our employees more satisfied than before? How has the change in one product group affected our other products?

Let’s not forget that the effects of change extend beyond your own organization. Therefore, the impact must also be measured among current and potential customers. Have we managed to reach new customer groups? What kind of feedback do we get from our customers? Are our customers buying more now? And most importantly, do your customers know how to use the services or products you’re offering?

All hail our transformative leaders!

I’m quite positive that the 70% digital initiative waste I mentioned in the beginning of this article can be reduced to absolute minimum. Leaders who understand that change is not an individual development or technology acquisition project are the most likely to succeed. A change-intelligent leader strives to enable their organization to embrace a holistic change culture, one that individual projects are an essential part of.

It is ironic that changing the concept of change is so difficult. Fortunately, every week I meet more and more young generation leaders who understand change as a broader phenomenon than individual projects or building blocks. The notorious 70 percent is melting day by day like a snowman in Finland’s summery weather.


About the author

Paula Salmi is the Business Director of Leading Change and Programs at Sofigate. She has years of experience in international change projects.

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