It is well cited amongst research publications that as high as 70% of all change initiatives fail. 
However, a recent article published in 2021 by People Management suggests this rate is closer to 88% and attributes this failure rate to a lack of leadership capability to facilitate change.  Mismanaged, loosely led and recurring change initiatives create 'change fatigue', destroy morale, waste business resources, increase staff turnover and ultimately affect all future change efforts. 
As experts in leadership development, Newland Partners have partnered with a number of organisations supporting leaders and their teams.  From these interventions we can share with you our insights into the 4 critical abilities that enable sustainable change. 
1. Believability  
To what extent do your leaders believe in the change they are leading?  When surveying participants on our learning programmes, we find a strong link between failed change initiatives and leaders who have medium to low confidence in the organisation’s capabilities to deliver the change.  Working on leadership mindset and vision for change is imperative to overcome the doubters and avoid falling at the first hurdles. 
2. Availability 
How much time do you invest in creating the change you want to see?  Leaders and their teams become immersed in solving today’s operational problems and, despite their best intentions, plans for change are easily side-lined and put to the bottom of the to-do-list.  Because change is about creating new ways of working it is essential for leaders to carve out the space for themselves and their teams to do the heavy lifting needed to build the foundations on which change can be sustained. 
3. Accountability  
What efforts are made to mobilise the whole organisation behind the change?  When people feel uncertain or unable to control the future they quickly spiral into a state of disengagement, resentment and underperformance.  Leaders must act quickly to counter this by involving people in the change agenda and handing over control for analysis and decision making that will determine how each individual can become a positive contributor to the new order. 
3. Durability 
How resilient are you in the face of set-backs? Leading change is a dynamic not a linear journey.  Making the change stick requires a readiness to accept set-backs, learn from them, and adjust to move forward.  Leaders can build durability in their organisations by facing into the difficult conversations that need to happen; helping people to overcome barriers and to make important personal choices in a safe and supportive environment. 

So how can you develop these 4 abilities? 

#1 Change is constant 
The notion that change can be picked up or loosely scheduled in as a planning activity is a misconception that leads to short term results and long term failure.   Change however is visionary, ongoing, preparing for the unexpected, a mindset.  Time is spared if embedded in the culture, through its people and via the right leadership style. 
#2 Develop transformative leaders 
New line managers are chosen as leaders from being operationally astute and for being outcome oriented.  However, leading a diverse mix of people requires a different skill set and ability to consistently deliver on desired outcomes with a fully functioning, culturally sound, energetic, motivated team.  Leaders who inspire and motivate others are those who are your 'change activists'.  These leaders know the value people bring to the table. They actively encourage feedback, seek involvement from others in decision making, understand the importance of feedback loops, are accountable for failure and take responsibility for developing others. 
#3 Communicate with your people 
Mindset is one of the biggest barriers to change.  To succeed at long term, sustainable change there has to be the acknowledgement that people need ongoing support to identify any barriers or resistance to change.  This can be as simple as having a conversation, sharing your own concerns and opening up discussion for overcoming them collectively.  Often concerns are not isolated to one individual and by creating a forum for sharing, you can collaborate  ideas to get past any concerns. 
#4 Revisit goals 
Whatever your role, we all have a different perspective of what needs to change or improve in our organisations. Talk with people about your goals for change to help them understand, focus and engage in the right direction. Listen to their thoughts about what it means to them, how they can contribute, what excites them and disappoints them. Leaders can’t please everyone all the time, so it is equally important to talk about what you are not going to do and why. Regularly revisit and discuss progress against the goals to demonstrate commitment and momentum. 
#5 Involve and work through others 
Hand over more to your team. One of the common causes of disengagement from change initiatives is employees feeling they are not involved. Involving people in critical projects or tasks is a great way to keep the team motivated, unlock their potential and get some personal time back. Challenge people to identify the small things they can change in their daily activity and behaviour that helps contribute to change. Create cross-functional ‘task forces’ to lead key pieces of work. 
#6 Celebrate successes 
People need to see and know progress is being made to build belief and momentum for further change. Look for the small signs and symbols that indicate progress. This might be changes in behaviour, examples of work that fit your new world model or a pattern change in performance indicators. You don’t need grand recognition or award schemes. Just spot it and talk about it often to as many people as you can. 
Lastly, leading change is an exciting and rewarding experience. At Newland Partners we work with our clients to build the mindset, behaviours and skills needed to form an enduring continuous improvement culture in their organisations. In our experience this is not achieved by a quick fix training solution but a long-term learning partnership that delivers individualised development and results. 
If you are currently looking for a partner to help you to develop your leaders and people, then drop us a line.  
If you are new to Newland Partners - why not explore our sample programmes and discover how we can partner with you on your learning and development journey. 
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