As we have blogged before, CCG is fascinated with why such a high percentage of change interventions fail. 

We believe there are two main reasons for this:

1. Clients don’t understand the complexity of introducing new strategy into their businesses, particularly large organisations, or are unwilling the make the difficult choices always required in order to embed sustainable change. 

2. Most consultants who work in the space are either not experienced enough to identify and manage the complexity involved with large-scale projects, or are not able to sufficiently influence the client to adopt a necessary approach.

We have a number of comments to make about how to deal with these issues:

For consultants:

If something doesn’t feel right for you up front or you don’t feel readily able to tackle a particular project, pull back.  Either ask for professional support and advice from a colleague or let the project go (as hard from an emotional or financial/commercial point of view that might be).  You owe it to your client, yourself and your collegaues to only do work that you feel confident in being able to deliver on.

For clients:

1. Accept that consultants are considered experts for a reason (if you don’t believe someone is an expert, don’t hire them!).   We have heard too many times that we shouldn’t “over-engineer” our approach to strategy/change implementation, “surely we can do it in less time than that”, “I think your approach is too structured for our organization”.

These remarks make us think about going to a doctor with a pain in one’s chest and arguing about whether we should have open heart surgery (the doctor’s urgent professional recommendation that we don’t want because it costs and hurts a lot!) or rather (the patient’s suggestion) that we take a dose of pills and get some rest.

Why is it that we don’t (generally) argue with the doctor about what he or she recommends as a remedy, but when it comes to change we are all experts!

2. Don’t shoot the messenger: Don’t attack the person delivering the message simply because it doesn’t suit you!  It is important to accept that you won’t like every consultant you meet and sometimes the people we like least have the most to teach us!

Implementing strategy successfully requires that hard choices are made by both consultant and client.  This requires often dealing with difficult organizational politics (for example, between IT and the line, between one executive and his agenda versus the project manager, personality issues between an external consultant and the Project Lead; the list goes on…).  

Why is all of this important?

  1. Managing the myriad of relationships that exist in any large human system requires leadership and patience from all parties, as well as the capacity for honest conversations.
  2. The theory of change management is not complex, the application is extremely so (this is one of the reasons we use the term “change implementation”) and a skilled consultant needs to help a client understand this at the very start of an engagement.
  3. Successful change implementation requires a high level of trust between the parties involved (and “parties” might include dozens of folk who play an integral and strategic role in an assignment).
  4. Both parties to a consulting contract can assure a greater rate of success if they are willing to risk more, earlier in the game.

We suggest testing your relationship from early on (even before contracts are signed) in order to ensure the appropriate level of understanding exists to ensure assignment success.