Have you ever heard the phrase, “You are either green and growing or ripe and rotting”? It is one that should resonate with companies who have successfully weathered the past few years. They have figured out how to, if not grow, at least stay fresh—i.e. survive the economy without rotting. That was done through measures that may have been meticulously planned, but more likely, survival measures such as layoffs, furloughs and other cost-cutting measures. In any event, there were necessary changes that occurred. The time may have come when those decisions need to be re-evaluated as business starts to grow again.

As a business leader, have you taken the time to look at company goals, objectives and strategic plans? As you well know, survival goals look very different from growth goals. Briefly, have you asked the question, What are we going to do more of, less of or different in order to be better? Unfortunately, this tough question does not have an easy answer, because it requires change, and change is hard.

The practice of organizational development is founded, in large part, on the practices of change management. If you want your organization to achieve different results, the organization itself has to change. Processes have to change, structures have to change, markets have to change—but most importantly, people have to change. Unfortunately, according to multiple studies, only 25 to 30 percent of change initiatives succeed. Although that’s a daunting statistic, change is necessary. So how can organizations become successful at change?

Many, many books have been written on change, and they all share a similar message: create a clear vision, take your time, don’t expect overnight results, and above all, communicate, communicate, communicate. With so many clearly outlined processes and techniques, you’d think it would be easy to develop a change strategy that would guide an organization through a change initiative; but as many battered and bruised leaders can tell you, it’s not.

Successful change initiatives all have one thing in common: they focus on the individual. Each individual employee must be convinced of the need for the change, the safety of making the change, the ease of making the change, and how they will be helped and supported in making the change. An announcement from top management, a poster in the cafeteria or even an all-hands meeting won’t do it. From the top down, each leader must tell the change story to the people who report to them and gain commitment to change—not as a group, not as a team, but as individuals. Yes, it takes time, but can you afford a 70-percent probability of failure?

Change is scary. It can mean a change in an employee’s financial well-being, personal feeling of status, perception of fairness and belief in his or her ability to do a good job. Taking the time to have conversations about planned change and listening to employees’ concerns are the best tactics for leading a successful change initiative. iBi