If you have a bit of a mathematical background, you may recall a distant memory of the term “necessary but not sufficient”. It refers to a condition that must exist for an outcome to be true, but on its own is not enough to make it so. It’s a bit like saying you need an engine to make a car move, but some wheels might also be useful.
Evidence shows (e.g. https://blog.prosci.com/7-real-reasons-why-tech-projects-fail) that the huge investments in Transformations are unlikely to achieve their vaunted promises if the emphasis is given to tech and process. Why? Because, of course, there’s that funny thing called “People”. That’s where OCM comes in – Organizational Change Management. Most large programs these days do utilize OCM. More often than not, this is focused on tools such as Impact Assessments, Readiness Assessments, Stakeholder Engagement, Benefits Realization and of course Training and Communication. These tools are needed and provide useful information about people aspects in programs. They are indeed necessary, but are they sufficient? Well, let’s take a look at some evidence that Stanford uncovered some years ago, which Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert Sutton captured in their book “The Knowing-Doing Gap”. People don’t adopt new behaviors readily even when they know what they’re supposed to do. Some areas they identified:
Talk substitutes for action
This is when the act of making a decision to change something is equated with it actually being done. A program may be launched. Important people may say impressive things. A vision may be agreed upon. But has anything actually changed?
Memory as a substitute for action
It’s not uncommon to revert to the “way of things are done around here”, accepted norms, relying on precedent rather than making the change.
Fear prevents acting on knowledge
Leaders have a very specific role in actively encouraging people to speak up about areas that need to be improved. Invariably people know what needs to be done but (an often unspoken) fear prevents them from doing so.
Measurement obstructs good judgement
An obsessive focus on measuring performance, particularly outputs and end-of-process measures, can create perverse incentives and take attention away from behaviors that are core to the organization’s core values, culture and strategy.
Competition between individuals in an organization may create positive outcomes, but if this is done thoughtlessly it can be extremely harmful. Without teamwork, mutual respect and a sense of loyalty, getting people to buy in to any change will be an up-hill endeavor.