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    BP's Fiona MacLeod Speaks On Corporate Change Addiction

    Change management programs are costly and fail to solve problems, she said.

    LONDON -- At the recent Wharton Leadership Conference co-sponsored by the Center for Human Resources and the Center for Leadership & Change Management, a former BP executive Fiona MacLeod addressed the corporate world's "addiction" to serial change management programs that consume massive resources, but ultimately fail to solve the problems they aim to address, reported [email protected].

    "What really struck me is why so many of these change management programs fail," only to be followed by similar initiatives soon after and before the original program is completed, said MacLeod, who was president of BP Convenience Retail USA & Latin America before she went on sabbatical to pursue other opportunities earlier this year.

    She asked guests how it would be possible to "free ourselves from our addiction to episodic change and move to a much more healthy habit of continuous business improvement?" and compared the situation to a yo-yo dieter who loses weight only to gain it all back.

    According to MacLeod, many change management programs are set up to fail because "the change we are putting in place is not sustainable—and sustainability is absolutely crucial," she said.

    Other reasons such programs fail include:

    -- New leaders are more concerned with "making a big splash" than following through on a long-term plan.
    -- Organizations often revert to old habits because employees do not understand why change is needed, or they lack the tools and training required to sustain the new approach.
    -- Nothing changes because ownership of the change rests with an external team or consultants, rather than with leaders responsible for running the business.

    She also presented ways to make change programs work, including putting in place programs to fully engage leaders and employees in the process of creating change and sustaining it over time. Business leaders can identify problems and how to solve them, but engaging people in change is just as important, she said.

    "If people get it intellectually, but don't get it emotionally, I don't believe the change will be sustained," she said.

    Employees must understand the case for change to be engaged in it, and managers should provide data to back up statement, MacLeod explained.

    "Develop your killer slide to make your business case whenever you give a presentation. It's not only why you're changing, but what it's going to look like when you're done. People need to have a sense of what the future looks like, so be very clear on that," she said.

    Other tips MacLeod presented include:

    -- Business leaders must own the change agenda and take responsibility for following through on implementing the steps and tracking results.
    -- Get commitment of leaders to avoid the pitfall of turning change management into a charade.
    -- Shift the emphasis of change management from "big splashes" to "everyday performance improvement." Prevent reversion to old habits by providing tools and training to continually measure progress toward specific change objectives.
    -- Change culture to reward the desired behavior.

    She noted, "It's very easy to get addicted to the change pattern by not getting the change right in the first place, not making the tough calls or bold decisions up-front, maybe going for something half-way, and then allowing things to slip back."

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