QI Tips: Change Fatigue

QI Tips: How to Cope with Change Fatigue

Here at NICHQ, we're in the improvement business. That means we help a lot of people experience a great deal of change. Whether imposed or chosen, however, frequent change efforts can sometimes lead to change fatigue.

Leadership expert Gwen Webber-McLeod, president and CEO of Gwen Inc., describes change fatigue as a loss of focus, energy and willingness in leaders and employees constantly impacted by organizational change. Change fatigue symptoms include stress and high levels of fear, people not working to capacity and distracted leadership. Without intervention, change fatigue can cause initiatives to stall and fail.

To keep your change initiative moving forward on the right path it’s important to know the symptoms of fatigue and the right strategies for addressing them.

What Causes Change Fatigue? Strategies for Managing Change Fatigue
Poor planning and roll out of initiatives   Properly introduce change initiatives. There must be a specific process for announcing change, obtaining buy-in and positioning people to thrive throughout the process. Having a process for constantly communicating the successes resulting from the strategic rollout of change in an organization is also imperative. Webber-McLeod suggests leaders follow John Kotter's 8 Phases of ChangeExternal Link to be very strategic when introducing change initiatives.
Lack of communication about change initiatives Communicate early and often. Keep those who will be affected by change aware of what is being planned, when it will happen and what they can expect. This can help to squash the fear of the unknown—what things will be like once a change is implemented.
Improper engagement of employees   Engage key stakeholders in planning change. Change is most effective when those being affected by change management strategies have been engaged in planning the change from the beginning. It is helpful to create a change management task force to work with top leaders as this sends a signal across the organization that the ideas and concerns of employees, including lack of resources to effectively implement change, are being considered as change is planned.
Too much change all at once Manage the pace of change. Change and the pace of change in organizations are at an all-time high. Many organizations have multiple change initiatives happening at the same time. It is important for leaders to pace the amount and frequency of change in their organization. Businesses should ask: "Does everything really have to happen all at once? Can the pace and quantity of change be managed over time?" Change is exhausting. It is important to acknowledge this and create opportunities for employees to rest, relax and rejuvenate. Allow people to take time off. Organize a committee that creates internal activities to give people a break from change.
Leaving little room for error   Change initiatives must be flexible and agile. It is a traditional paradigm in organizations that once change is rolled out it has to happen as it was originally planned. But this is counterproductive to the effective management of change. It is helpful to monitor change initiatives and, if something is not working, be willing to stop and hit the reset button. It is okay to have do-overs. Establish feedback loops as change is implemented so there is information flowing regarding the effectiveness of the plans.

More QI Tips are available in the Resources section of the NICHQ website.