Embracing change management: How agile leadership can combat disruption – Part 1

Part 1 in a five-part blog series

More often than not, change initiatives fail. In fact, the brutal truth is that over 70% of change initiatives fail and it’s because they focus solely on rational aspects such as systems, processes and skills. Leaders often neglect to address the human elements that accompany major transitions, including the differing emotional journeys people experience, multiple vested interests that are often present and a whole diversity of perspectives on, and reactions to, any particular change.

People make organisations complex. As a result, we cannot rely on simple cause and effect when leading change. The leader’s role is in navigating that complexity — understanding what makes people tick and using that knowledge to inspire and motivate change. It’s the hallmark of a great change leader.

To embrace the disruptive effects of change and seize the opportunities it brings, you have to step up to the mark, and stay abreast of industry and market trends to proactively respond to change. You also need to:

  • Navigate the organisation through what are often choppy waters without losing trust, and
  • Motivate and inspire people to be resilient through the constant ups and downs of transition periods while maintaining both theirs and your focus and personal wellbeing.

Change can be anything from a change in process or system to integrating two companies following a merger or acquisition. Regardless of the scale of change, it will impact someone within the business. And it’s up to you to manage that impact to ensure benefits are realised and the change sticks.

Leading change management can be a formidable task, requiring different ways of thinking to succeed; it’s not simply about delivering on a change management plan. In our experience, there are four basic ground rules that can make the difference between a process that fails, and one that leads the organization toward a sustainable pathway to change.

To be a successful change management leader, you should:

  1. Inform your team of the rationale and benefits of any change you introduce.
  2. Use tactics that engage and involve them in the change.
  3. Enable success by removing obstacles and managing resistance effectively.
  4. Build trust and influence others through your own behaviour.

We’ll explore each of these principles in more depth throughout our five-part series.

Next week: Embracing change, part 2:  Informing your workforce to inspire shared vision




Phil Merrell is the ‎Director of Change Consulting, EMEA and Global Change Management Lead at ‎Willis Towers Watson.

Gaby Joyner is the Director of Willis Towers Watson’s Change Consulting practice in Great Britain.







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