Are you exhausted? What about your team? Most organizations have various strategic and operational projects they are undertaking in addition to the day to day activities that are required to keep the lights on and the business running. With new business objectives emerging and new technologies being added to the long list of priorities, the relentless pace of change in the organization may be starting to wear on everyone. You and your team may be suffering from Change Fatigue.
Change fatigue is often experienced when people feel overwhelmed for an extended period of time. Dealing with a small number of changes is often difficult for people as they feel the need to protect themselves and the status quo. They want to maintain the current way of doing things as they feel comfortable with doing their job and meeting the expectation. They can usually manage a small amount of change without too much difficulty. In today’s world though, it is normal to have big changes taking place for extended periods of time due to technology, new or changing business objectives, and ongoing departmental efforts to become more efficient and effective. Add to the mix large long term initiatives like digital transformation or an enterprise resource planning implementation (ERP) and the stage is set for IT leaders and staff as well as business partners to be exhausted.
How do you diagnose change fatigue?
Change fatigue manifests itself in many different ways. Most people don’t recognize the symptoms. They are unable to see that change is affecting them or that they are change resistant. Unfortunately, individuals and teams rarely self- diagnose the issue.
Visible symptoms of change fatigue often include:
Individuals experiencing change fatigue may feel like every day work and projects are completely out of their control and that their voice isn’t heard when they provide input. Their productivity will decline as small tasks start to feel like they take a lot of energy to complete.
Treatment for Change Fatigue
To avoid change fatigue, organizations should first understand the level of change required based on their strategic and operational project portfolio. While organizational change management is often addressed at the project level, it is imperative that organizations continuously evaluate change at the portfolio level as well. Evaluating the entire scope of change associated with the current portfolio will enable the organization to identify themes relating to change and possibly streamline some organizational change management activities. It may also uncover significant concerns relating to the volume of change the staff and customers must adapt to in a specific time period to be successful.
If the organization is suffering from change fatigue, there are steps you can take to reduce the impact and slowly get back on track. It will take some time to recover as a magic pill does not exist. Consider the following actions to start the recovery process:
Change fatigue didn’t happen overnight. The organization experienced a gradual decline in productivity. It probably started with a handful of staff and spread to infect teams and divisions. Even with aggressive steps, it is a long road to recovery. Professional help is most likely needed to assess the recovery plan and help the organization take preventative measures to reduce the likelihood of future outbreaks.
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Organizational shifts in IT such as adopting various good practices and building them into the organizational DNA are a slow process. They require culture change that often takes years to complete. Along the way the IT employees experience highs and lows often accompanied by periods of intense pressure to demonstrate forward momentum and resolve issues. In the midst of these changes, the IT organization must continue to be effective with the day to day operations associated with supporting their customers.
The relentless pace of change over a long period often creates change fatigue leaving employees feeling exhausted and wondering if it is all worthwhile yet the organization must continue to move forward to achieve their objectives and they must continue to support their customers effectively and efficiently. This scenario is tricky to manage. If change fatigue goes unmanaged, the organization faces several risks relating to employee retention and engagement which will ultimately have a negative effect on the transformation initiative.
Change during periods of IT transformation must be calibrated to account for both the goals and objectives of the organization and the culture. The development of strategic plans and subsequent projects as well as day to day operational management must consider how to revitalize fatigued staff throughout the entire transformation initiative.
To maximize the opportunity for success with an IT transformation, leaders must carefully observe the organization focusing not only on transformation and employee engagement metrics but other key indicators of change fatigue such an increase in attrition, a decrease in customer satisfaction, and the frequent reallocation of resources. Organizational change and project plans must be recalibrated throughout the initiative with the schedule and resource allocation being adjusted as necessary to allow for the IT department, key resources, and customers to take a break from the constant momentum of change to recognize and celebrate the progress to date.
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At AdOPT, we are transformation consultants focused on strategy, process, innovation, and culture to increase effectiveness, improve efficiency, and optimize costs. We wrote the book on organizational change in IT. For more information about our Change Adoption workshop, facilitated innovation sessions, vision and strategy development, process assessments and consulting, or other services, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 520-591-2427