WARNING: 3 Mistakes To Avoid with High-Stakes Change
The Land Mines of Leading Change: Understand the context of the picture – What could possibly go wrong here? Leading change is loaded with risks and potential land mines. We have watched many careers get derailed, and many organizations take a long time to recover from costly but avoidable mistakes during change initiatives that went off track.
One of the first change initiatives I was involved in occurred during the merger of two major home improvement retailers along the East Coast. The initiatives focused on a blunting strategy to compete with one of the dominant big box retailers as they entered dozens of Mid-Atlantic markets with the goal of saving $50 million.
The Executive team presented their case for change in their top four markets during town hall meetings with the hope of ‘rallying the troops’ and amass support behind the cost saving measures to successfully compete. The measures included cutting payroll dramatically corporately and at the store level, eliminating retirement contributions and profit sharing, reducing benefits while increasing employee contributions and more…insert face palm here.
I attended all four of the meetings and during one of them, an employee mustered up enough courage to ask the panel, comprised of CFO, CEO and SVP of Store Operations, “…if after making all of these sacrifices for me and my family just to be competitive, are y’all willing to give up your country club memberships and fancy cars?” The room fell deathly silent, there was no response from the leadership panel, and they awkwardly moved on. You could feel the air literally being sucked out of the room.
How well do you think the employees embraced the changes after that point?
How successful do you think they were against the competition?
How successful do you think the merger was implemented?
In less than twenty-one months, this third-generation private retailer was finally laid to rest. Examples, like this one, happen all too frequently. It’s easy to see in other organizations, but not always so apparent when you’re in the middle of it leading your own unit, division or organization.
“Leaders go first, but eat last.” – Simon Sinek