Seventy percent of change programs fail to achieve their goals.
So what are the factors behind such an incredibly high rate of failure?
The main reasons are employee resistance and lack of management buy-in.
When people are genuinely invested in change the success rate improves dramatically - by more than 30 percent.
Be the Change, Lead the Change
On Thursday evening, we launched our "Be the Change, Lead the Change" program in Sydney. We received vital insights on change leadership from Caroline Veitch, Director of Finance Strategy & Transformation at KPMG, Sarah Alder, CFO at Fox Sports and Nigel Everard, CFO at Hungry Jacks.
Here are six valuable things I learnt that I wanted to share with my network on what are the real drivers behind successful change and transformation:
1. Accounting and finance leaders of today need a new and expanded skill set
“Customer behaviours drive the most important business actions, so we need to provide accurate and timely information to help with decision making.” – Sarah Alder, CFO, Fox Sports
The success of a business relies on the customer wanting a defined product or service. Therefore, the finance team plays a crucial role in providing insights that drive the sound decision making behind delivering on that product or service.
Finance and accounting teams have traditionally been focused on financial accounts and reporting. But modern finance teams are now expected to be business partners, or co-pilots, actively involved in both finance and non-finance KPIs.
The modern skillset of a CFO now requires them to pull from every part of the business. To have a firm grasp of how best to assess risk and achieve business goals. But also to be able to think like a marketer, have a mind tick over like an engineer, as well as hold a deeper understanding of IT. They essentially need to have a very broad knowledge base and skill set that at one time would be the expected domain of specialists.
2. Capacity strains and burnout are real
“For CFO’s, one of their biggest fears is their team…. They are very loyal to their team and they want their team to succeed.” - Director of Finance Strategy & Transformation, KPMG
There is always an underlying fear of pushing the capacity of your team too far.
Your team members have their day to day job to perform as well as the needs of implementing and managing a change program.
Often when one change program ends, another will be just around the corner. So change is an ongoing process that requires you to always make sure your team’s capacity and capabilities are in line with what is being asked of them. Sometimes change results in losing people in your team and attrition is a legitimate fear for CFO’s.
3. Celebrate the wins
“You have to be conscious of your team, you need to stop and celebrate… because you can’t achieve anything unless the team achieves.” – Nigel Everard, CFO, Hungry Jacks
Make sure you celebrate the wins. It’s easy to work on one project then quickly transition straight to the next. So it’s important for leaders and teams to celebrate the wins between each milestone to maintain employee motivation and engagement.
If employees don’t feel valued, they can quickly become disengaged and there’s a high cost associated with attrition. Transparent communication and celebrating wins helps nurture the best performing employees as well as establishing great company culture and attracting new talent.
There are many ways to celebrate, from minor celebrations to major ones, but celebrating regularly is important. Celebrations can be as simple as a thank you email or could involve a celebratory lunch or half day off. It can also be a great idea to provide your team with a clear summary of how what they’re doing directly helps the company.
4. The first follower is the most important person of a change program
“How do you get 40,000 people to come on a change journey? Find key influencers in the organisation. The key influencer may not be the CEO, it might be Mick who’s on the production floor. He’s not a leader but after a meeting, everyone will talk to Mick. My fear is not being able to identify those influential people. If I don’t have a good team behind me, I’m wasting my time.” – Nigel Everard, CFO, Hungry Jacks
Early adopters can make or break a change program. But it’s important to remember that you (as the CFO/leader) don’t need to be the one that leads the change.
Influencers don’t need to be the leader of the team, it could be someone in operations or in the warehouse who is well known to the business. If you get them onboard first it can have a huge impact on the level of adoption from the rest of the team.
This video perfectly captures the natural evolution of people embracing change and highlights the crucial role of the first follower.
5. You have to have trust in your team
“ There is a fear of letting go of control. This new world relies on information that is openly available, and you can’t control it, letting go of that is important.” – Director of Finance Strategy & Transformation, KPMG
Organisations are looking for finance enablers. They are looking for people with a genuine understanding of current business risks and opportunities and who can additionally help navigate the new demands and challenges it faces.
In order to do that, people need to be open to change. They have to be willing to be innovative and move outside of their comfort zone.
There is often a fear of letting go when it comes to change. But you need to adopt the right mindset towards change and trust the people around you to help make decisions and embrace new ideas.
6. It’s an exciting time to be part of finance
In the past, real organisational change only occurred about once a decade. Today, every organisation needs to be far more agile and this provides opportunities for individuals to take initiative and add value.
Finance and accounting teams are no longer limited to debits and credits and rarely being involved in change projects. Now everyone has a chance to be involved in genuine transformations.
You should be asking yourself the question - how can you personally, along with your finance team, add value to the organisation?
Making the Change
Every business faces its change needs in different ways. What has the company’s journey been to date? What has the company culture been like in the past? How much change have people already been through?
Excessive change leads to fatigue so timing is important and will set the tone for how likely staff are to embrace it. Your approach should also be tailored to the characteristics of the team.
Take into account the business goals, the team, and the landscape. Think about the tools required and get advice from the best people. This ensures you have put together a tailored approach and the only thing left to do is go for it.
If you’d like to hear more about West Recruitment’s “Be the Change, Lead the Change” CFO Leadership Program, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.