Top 10 reasons change initiatives fail

Nicki Burns

Yogesh is a qualified Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt and accomplished Strategy and Operational Turnaround leader with over 14 years of intense on-field experience. He has been responsible for leading and delivering efficiency driven business and operational performance improvement / transformation programmes in multiple geographies in asset intensive regulated industry sectors (Oil & Gas, Energy and Utility). 


We spoke to Yogesh about change management and the top 10 reasons change initiatives fail.


“The Key to Successfully Delivering Change is – Commitment, Collaboration, Persuasion and Respecting Contributions Made by Others”


Modern political and economic volatility have forced organisations to create a consistent approach for building their internal capabilities to remain competitive and successful for future. It is quite obvious how ‘hot’ the topic - Change Management - is as, a simple search on Google is resulting into near-enough 36M results. Clearly this shows a growing appetite for Change over these years. 


Traditionally, organisations started improvements through running a number of small improvement projects, which then were brought under one cohesive vision via PMO approach. Some organisations even went on to creating Centre of Excellence hoping that would improve their implementation success rates of Change initiatives.


At the end, organisations want to maximise value (intangible) and returns (tangible) on their investments by installing ‘Change mind-set’ into their very fabric of organisational (and operational) culture. 


Having said that and even the concept of ‘Change Management’ has been around for more than 60 years, the success rates of successfully implementing Change / Transformation initiatives of less than 30% is rather bemusing. Also, according to HBR, this statistic hasn’t changed in last 50 years! It is important to note that not all failures are blamed onto poor Change Management, but some apply to actual results they have delivered - which have been (somewhat / significantly) far from their intended outcomes. 


Clearly, this begs a question – should we not change our approach to Change?


Before we straight go into ‘solutions mode’ to find an alternative (or rather ‘better’) approach to Change, lets understand the reasons why your Change programme failed to realise sustainably. According to my observations and subjective analysis, the top 10 reasons why I think Change initiatives fail are:


  1. Organisational culture / propensity to change
  2. Organisational alignment & capability
  3. Lack of senior management accountability
  4. Communication (lack-of / over) 
  5. Structure and make of project delivery teams
  6. Fatigue
  7. Structured framework for change (inc. sustainment route-map)
  8. Project overruns (time / budgets)
  9. Unrealistic Scope
  10. Lack of tools (infrastructure / IT)


It is important to highlight that each Change project is unique to a specific organisation and the success often will depend on how well the organisational culture (and its capability) and its working (engagement) habits are understood.


In my next post I will outline steps you can take to ensure you fall into the 30% or ‘golden’ band of success.


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