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  • Writer's pictureSofia Ng

Is the tail wagging your dog?

Have you ever felt like your business was being dragged, kicking and screaming, into change? 

Where minor issues not spotted during the discovery phase, suddenly become monstrous challenges that hinder progress? If this scenario sounds all too familiar, you might be experiencing the case of "the tail wagging the dog" in your organisational change efforts. This blog dives deep into the heart of this issue, exploring effective change management strategies to ensure your business not only adapts but thrives through transitions.

Why Do Minor Issues Become Major Obstacles?

The journey from a minor hiccup to a full-blown obstacle in project implementation isn't just a matter of oversight; it's a multifaceted issue that intertwines human psychology, organisational culture, and procedural gaps. Understanding these factors can help organisations better prepare and respond to the challenges that come with change.

Resistance to Change

At the heart of many escalating issues is the natural human tendency to resist change. This resistance isn't just stubbornness; it's rooted in deep psychological comfort with the familiar. When new processes or solutions are introduced, even minor changes can trigger significant anxiety and resistance among team members, leading to larger problems as these feelings are amplified across an organisation.

Communication Breakdowns

Often, what starts as a small issue becomes significant due to communication failures. Whether it's a lack of clarity about the change, insufficient explanation of the benefits, or simply not providing enough information, these communication gaps can lead to misunderstandings, rumors, and fear, which exacerbate the original issue.

Inadequate Change Impact Assessment

Sometimes, minor issues blow up because the impact of the change was not thoroughly assessed. A small change in one department can have unforeseen consequences in another, leading to a cascade of issues that were not anticipated. This can be particularly true in complex organisations where systems and processes are deeply interconnected.

Lack of Stakeholder Engagement

Engaging stakeholders early and often in the change process is crucial. When this doesn't happen, seemingly minor issues can become major obstacles as stakeholders feel sidelined or unheard. Their buy-in is essential not just for the smooth implementation of changes but also for identifying potential problems early on.

Organisational Culture

The culture of an organisation plays a significant role in how changes are perceived and managed. In cultures that are risk-averse or where failure is not seen as an opportunity for learning, minor issues can quickly escalate as individuals and teams may be reluctant to address or even acknowledge them until they become too big to ignore.

Underestimating the Cumulative Effect

Many organisations fail to consider how small issues can accumulate over time, leading to a much larger problem. What might appear as an isolated incident could be indicative of a more significant underlying issue or could combine with other minor issues to disrupt the project significantly.

Moving Forward with Awareness and Strategy

Understanding why minor issues can become major obstacles is the first step in preventing such scenarios. It emphasises the need for a comprehensive approach to change management that goes beyond just the logistical aspects of change to address the human, cultural, and communicative facets of transitioning from the old to the new. By recognising these potential pitfalls, organisations can develop more robust strategies that include thorough impact assessments, proactive communication plans, and an inclusive approach to stakeholder engagement. This not only helps in smoothing the path of change but also strengthens the organisation's capacity to manage future changes more effectively.

The Solution: Robust Change Management

Facing the challenge head-on, the solution to preventing a scenario where minor issues lead the charge—effectively the tail wagging the dog—centers around solidifying and enhancing change management practices. Let's delve deeper into the components of an effective change management strategy that can act as a bulwark against such situations.

Stakeholder Engagement: Beyond the Basics

Engaging stakeholders is not merely about ticking a box. It's about fostering a two-way dialogue where feedback is not only sought but also acted upon. This means involving stakeholders at every level of the organisation in the change process from the get-go. It’s crucial to identify who will be impacted by the change and understand their concerns, fears, and suggestions. This holistic approach helps in identifying blind spots in the plan and in building a sense of ownership and commitment to the change across the organisation.

Communication: The Lifeline of Change Management

Effective communication goes beyond sending out a company-wide email or holding a kickoff meeting. It’s about creating a narrative around the change, one that connects with employees' values, addresses their concerns, and paints a clear picture of the benefits. Regular updates, Q&A sessions, and open forums for expressing concerns can help in demystifying the change process. Remember, people need to understand the 'why' behind the change, not just the 'what' and the 'how'. Tailoring communication to different groups within the organisation, considering their unique concerns and how the change impacts their work, can also enhance its effectiveness.

Training and Support: Equipping Your Team for Success

Providing comprehensive training and ongoing support is essential to smooth the transition. This includes not just technical training on new systems or processes but also support in adapting to new ways of working. It’s important to recognise that people learn at different paces and in different ways, so offering multiple training formats (e.g., workshops, online tutorials, peer-to-peer learning) can be beneficial. Additionally, establishing a support system, such as help desks or mentorship programs, can provide employees with the help they need when they need it.

Flexibility: The Art of Adaptation

Adapting your strategy as the project progresses is crucial. Flexibility means being open to feedback, willing to make adjustments, and able to respond to unforeseen challenges. It's about creating a change management plan that's robust yet flexible enough to accommodate shifts in the external and internal business environment. Regularly revisiting and revising the change management strategy, based on ongoing feedback and the changing landscape, ensures that the strategy remains relevant and effective.

Celebrate Wins: Building Momentum

Recognising and celebrating progress, no matter how small, can significantly boost morale and build momentum. Celebrations can be simple acknowledgments in team meetings, company-wide emails highlighting successes, or even small events to mark milestones. These recognitions serve as reminders of the progress being made and reinforce the value of the changes being implemented. They also help to build a culture that views change positively, which can be invaluable for future change initiatives.

Steering Clear of Being Led by the 'Tail'

Implementing new solutions or processes in your business doesn't have to mean being dragged along by minor issues that turn into major obstacles. By adopting a proactive and comprehensive approach to change management, you can ensure that your business is not only prepared for change but can also harness it for growth and improvement. Remember, the goal is to have the dog wagging the tail - moving forward with purpose and direction, with change as a catalyst for success rather than a barrier.

Change isn't just about surviving; it's about thriving. 

With the right strategies in place, your business can navigate through transitions smoothly and emerge stronger on the other side. So, the next time you're faced with implementing a new solution or process, ask yourself: Are we letting the tail wag the dog, or are we in control of our change management journey


  • How can we identify potential 'tail' issues early on?

    • Engage in thorough planning and risk assessment, involve stakeholders in the discovery process, and maintain open lines of communication throughout the project.

  • What do we do if we find ourselves in a tail-wagging-the-dog situation

    • Reassess your change management strategy, increase stakeholder engagement, and be flexible in your approach to addressing the issues at hand.

  • How can we measure the success of our change management efforts?

    • Set clear, measurable objectives at the start of the project and regularly review progress against these goals. Celebrate successes and learn from setbacks to continuously improve your approach.

  • Can change management help in reducing resistance to change?

    • Absolutely! A core component of change management involves understanding and addressing the concerns and fears of those impacted by the change. By actively engaging stakeholders, providing clear and transparent communication, and offering adequate training and support, you can significantly reduce resistance and increase buy-in for the change.

  • What role does organisational culture play in change management?

    • Organisational culture plays a pivotal role. A culture that values flexibility, continuous improvement, and open communication can greatly enhance change management efforts. Conversely, a culture resistant to change can hinder these efforts. Therefore, part of effective change management may involve cultural shifts within the organisation to create an environment more conducive to change.

  • How important is leadership during the change management process?

    • Leadership is crucial. Leaders not only set the vision for the change but also model the behaviors and attitudes they wish to see throughout the organisation. Effective leaders will champion the change, provide support and resources needed for the change to occur, and help navigate the organisation through any challenges that arise.

  • What common mistakes should we avoid in change management?

    • Some common pitfalls include underestimating the complexity of the change, neglecting the need for extensive communication, failing to engage all levels of the organization, overlooking the importance of training and support, and not adjusting the strategy based on feedback and changing circumstances. Avoiding these mistakes can significantly increase your chances of successful change management.

  • How do we sustain the change after its initial implementation?

    • Sustaining change requires continuous effort and reinforcement. This can include integrating the change into the organisation's culture, practices, and policies; ongoing training and support for employees; regular monitoring and adjustments as needed; and reinforcing the value and benefits of the change through continued communication and celebration of milestones.

  • Is there a one-size-fits-all approach to change management?

    • No, there isn't. While there are best practices and strategies that can be universally applied, every organisation and change initiative is unique. Customising your approach based on the specific context, culture, and challenges of your organisation and the change at hand is key to effective change management.

Change management is a journey, and like any journey, it can come with its share of challenges. But with the right mindset and strategies, you can ensure that your business not only navigates these challenges successfully but also harnesses them as opportunities for growth and improvement.

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