Ten 10 Reasons Why Organisational Change Fails

Ten 10 Reasons Why Organisational Change Fails

No organization has ever been immune to change. As Edwards Deming noted, ‘It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.’ In today's dynamic world, organizational leaders must be vigilant about the context in which their organizations are situated, being particularly attentive to changes in the general and task environments. Also, to survive, they must be knowledgeable about how to implement 


appropriate organizational change that will be embraced by their employees. Unfortunately, effective organizational changes are rare (Meaney and Pung, 2008).


Organizational change refers to the process of growth, decline, and transformation within an organization (Aishu 2020). Though one may think that organizations are enduring structures in a changing society, the truth is that organizations are changing all the time and organizational change takes different forms. The context in which organizational change takes place makes it a complex and confusing process fail (Watson & Spencer 2016), It is much more complex than normal human behavior and when not managed properly any change initiative will most likely.


The most recent statistics, derived from a global survey of businesses by McKinsey, reveal that only one-third of organizational change efforts were considered successful by their leaders (Meaney and Pung, 2008). What is even more discouraging is that the 3,199 executives who responded to their survey indicated they devoted an average of six months to plan the transformations. I this article I will explain ten reasons why organizations change intiatives fail to yield the intended results.

Reason 1: No clear and compelling case for change

When people do not understand why change is necessary, anxiety, cynicism, and resistance inevitably build. Most major transformations are justified from a financial returns standpoint, but the rationale for large-scale change must be clear and compelling for all of the key stakeholders (Hammer  & Champy 2003). If you do not help critical groups of people understand why change is necessary and how it will affect them, you will never get to the rest of the story. Even with a solid intellectual rationale for change, people inevitably want to understand the implications for and impact on them.


Reason 2: Lack of senior team alignment

The leadership requirements of leading a transformation are quite different from those of leading a business or function in steady-state or even a smaller, more focused change effort. By definition, transformations are comprehensive makeovers of the way work is done (Griffith 2010). Leading such efforts involves making progress on an array of projects or work streams that need to be managed in a traditional sense, but that also needs to be pulled together in ways that require close collaboration and difficult tradeoffs. Only the senior leadership team can do this work.


Reason 3: Abdication of leadership’s responsibility to drive the process

While necessary, senior team alignment is not sufficient. The team needs to remain fully engaged throughout the transformation process, even as they continue to run the business (Hughes 2010). Given the significant competitive and operational pressures that senior teams face, it is easy for leaders to abdicate their responsibility for actively directing, leading, and monitoring the transformation. This often is reinforced by the organization’s reward system, which incentivizes a shorter-term, more operational focus (Hammer  & Champy 2003).


Reason 4: Communicating without really engaging

It is not enough for leadership to put substantial time and attention into articulating and communicating the business case for transformation. They have to do it in ways that truly enlist employees in the transformation process. Too often, however, they fail to get them on board, even when there is a burning platform providing a clear and compelling rationale for change. This is because one-way communication, even with the best of supporting materials, is not enough to win employees over to being willing change agents. To enlist employees, leadership has to be willing to let things get somewhat messy, through intensive, authentic engagement and the involvement of employees in making the transformation work.

Reason 5: Inadequate focus on culture change

Culture change is always an essential element of transformation. Culture can be loosely described as “how we do things around here” –  these are the norms and ways of operating that underpin how work is done. If that does not change in necessary ways, then all the work to change strategy, structure, and systems is likely to be unfruitful (Schein 1979). Culture is, however, hard to work on directly. It can only be changed by altering peoples’ behaviors. The first step is to clearly define what behaviors are necessary for driving the transformation.


Reason 6: Lack of accurate, timely feedback on progress

It is essential to figure out early if key initiatives are not progressing as planned and, if not, to rapidly take corrective action. It is like a sailboat that is off course; the longer it continues, the harder it is to correct (Griffith 2010.) This means you must be able to identify and mitigate emerging developments as things progress by building a system to track momentum and assess progress over long periods, mechanisms for feeding back what has been heard, learned, and is being acted on to employees.


Reason 7: Failure to create (and sustain) momentum

A transformation is a journey and all transformations share a handful of common denominators: They take long periods (years, not months), they are “epic” in their scope, they are grueling in their intensity, and they are punishing in their relentless need for consistency, consistency, consistency on the part of leadership (Armenakis and Wigand 2008). A majority of change initiatives fail because the stakeholders fail to maintain momentum for the change process.

Reason 8: No focused effort to accelerate the transition phase

Organizational transformation efforts rarely fail because of bad design, but rather from lack of sufficient attention to the transition from the old organization to the new one. There is a tendency to treat “Day One” of the new organization as the end of the journey, and not the start of a critical new phase of activity devoted to breathing life into the new organization. Avoiding these problems requires attention and investment in rapidly rewiring the organization during the transition phase.


Reason 9: Insufficient investment in developing people to succeed

Finally, too many transformation initiatives fail to focus on the development of the capabilities required for people to be successful in the new organization. This is a mistake for two reasons. First, organizational transformation always alters the nature of “the work” that must be done. Second, one of the biggest reasons people resist change is the fear that they won’t be able to be successful in the new organization, that “what got them here won’t get them there.” So, an upfront commitment to investing in helping people be successful reduces resistance.

Reason 10: Ignoring the Human side of Change

Our brains are hardwired to resist change. With the mere suggestion of change a fear response is triggered in our brains. This is why most of us are resistant to even the idea of organisational transformation, we are resistant to our familiar world changing from what we know to the unknown. We need to embrace the human side of change to effectively manage resistance to change and we need to understand that, whilst all change is not bad, it is a natural human response to have a defensive reaction to the unknown.  



The question before strategists is how to overcome these barriers to change? These efforts can be at an individual, group, and organizational levels. However, organizations are made up of individuals and groups an attempt is made to enlist the efforts at an organizational level. These are:



Bringing about Change in Mind-sets


Bringing about change in mind-sets is done by whom? It is the leader. That is the top brass is to provide role models. It is the quality of leadership that brings about change that is conducive to bring about the desired type and level of change in the organization.


Creating a Conducive Atmosphere for Change


Change for the better is impossible unless the organization has a conducive atmosphere for change. The high yielding systems are likely to fail because the management is disabled to bring about change in work-climate. That is why Professor Victor Tan says that “even the well-orchestrated change will fail if the environment is not conducive; the plans, efforts, and morale get defeated along the way; thus, it is necessary to develop an environment that is positive for a change.


To nurture the staple of conducive environment the leaders at the top are to:


  1. Develop a Compelling Vision - The companies are expected to develop a strategic vision that generates creative tension amongst the executives and employees, inspire them to work with sizzling zeal and provide them a direction towards the final destinations of success and growth and prosperity of the company.


2. Empower People - To bring about change with a greater degree of success, there is a need for whole-hearted support and participation from the executives as well as employees at all levels of the organization. The point lies in collective thinking and acting than demonstrating whims and fancies, status ego, and not using the powers. There is a need for unity of thought, purpose, and action; it needs empowering the people at all levels where one feels proud that he or she has been recognized to contribute towards implementation.


3. Communicating the Rationale behind Change - The people must know-why change is important? What is the motive behind the change? What is that justifies change? People are eager to know the answer to these questions before they are asked to act upon it. Hence, it is very essential to bring home the rationale behind the change which is possible through effective communication. Unfortunately, most of the managers communicate either too little or too late. The result is that people who are under the influence of change, near about it through unofficial or informal means leading to widening the communication gaps. Despite holding the meetings, the issue of circulars the very purport, and the philosophy of change remains an ice-berg. be brought of their notice in an impressive, impelling, and convincing manner.


4. Getting Commitment to Change - Getting people's commitment to change is a must. It is because it’s something more than empowering the people and injecting interest in the work. There is a difference between ‘interest’ and ‘commitment’. According to Mr. Kenreth Blanchard- “when you are interested in doing something you do it only when it is convenient. When you are committed to something, you accept no excuses, only results”.



The cost of a failed transformation to a company, such as a major restructuring, an expansion into new geography, or the integration of an acquired business, can be very high, with the direct costs of external consulting and internal management time paling in comparison to lost opportunities, disruption and change fatigue. So if your organization needs to change in fundamental ways, The starting point is to understand why most transformation efforts fail.


Carl Tapi is a Consultant at Industrial Psychology Consultants (Pvt) Ltd, a management and human resources consulting firm. https://www.linkedin.com/in/carl-tapi-45776482/ Phone +263 (242) 481946-48/481950 or cell number +263 772 469 680 or email: carl@ipcconsultants.com  or visit our website at www.ipcconsultants.com



Carl Tapi
This article was written by Carl a Consultant at Industrial Psychology Consultants (Pvt) Ltd

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