Companies and individuals continue to struggle with change and change management. There is an abundance of statistics and personal stories from people that suggest that upwards of 70% of change initiatives fail to deliver on expected goals within expected time-frames.
Most busy professionals long for greater levels of predictability and less uncertainty in their work environment and yet there is one very predictable event in regards to change management and most people miss it. That event is sabotage. In discussing this phenomenon with colleagues the conclusion is as follows, change is not complete until the sabotage occurs.
The reality of life in business is that there will almost always be individuals or groups within a company that will disagree and have some deep-rooted resistance to whatever change is envisioned or being rolled out. In failed change efforts, sabotages are classic interference’s and to be expected. Many people wince at the term sabotage and envision dramatic, sophisticated and sinister activities. However most times the sabotage is very subtle and sometimes are quite sophisticated and challenging to see and address.
Groups that are not totally bought into a change initiative can exhibit all sorts of passive aggressive behavior as part of their (sometimes sub-conscious) sabotage. Behaviors can include withholding of information, being evasive or not attending critical meetings or conference calls. The sabotage is often heavily disguised when people exhibit feigned commitment in public meetings, yet engage in subsequent backdoor conversations as they collude to plot some subversive activities in direct opposition to the desired change.
Have you ever been involved in a change initiative where significant momentum was built, and progress began, but then felt like it slowed down? That is a classic sign of unexpected, or unplanned for, resistance or sabotage. In cases like this, the resistors are usually testing the will and conviction of the leadership. The knock on effect is that others that were on board begin to slow down to observe how the leaders deal with this resistance. When leaders do not deal with the sabotage appropriately, efficiently and effectively, the people already on-board are likely to view the leader as lacking sufficient courage and lacking commitment to the change. When this occurs, momentum dies, and the saboteurs are successful.
The main point here is, that the sabotage is a predictable event. Leaders of change MUST be prepared in advance and they need to be ready, willing and able to address the sabotage effectively when it does occur. They must understand that the change cannot be complete until the sabotage occurs and is effectively dealt with.