Change Failure

Five Reasons for Change Management Failure

In its 2013 Change and Communications ROI Survey, Towers Watson discovered that only a quarter of change management projects produced the long term success they originally promised. This number should shock no one; the figure of 70% failure of change management projects was first noted by John Kotter in 1995 after a ten year study. The only difference is that, despite the emphasis now placed upon change management theories and practice, the change project failure rate has increased. Daniel Lock looks at five reasons why change management projects fail.

1. An alienated frontline

Senior executives ignore their frontline at their peril, and yet many do. The frontline is where the real action takes place. It is the pivot point between idea and product, product and sales, organisation and regulation. Research and development teams work with clients and purchasing managers, sales staff speak to customers and shop-floor engineers work with the tools provided every day. Sadly, most change project decisions are taken at senior level, and then actions forced upon the frontline. They have no voice, and no way of communicating their concerns up the line. Consequently, frontline staff feel alienated, unloved, and undervalued.

2. Management tams are too narrow

Particularly in more mature organisations, senior management teams are too narrow in their focus and lack diversity of thought and experience. The CEO, CIO, and CFO surround themselves with people of a like-mind. Itís comfortable and leads to a more harmonious life. But in business, this lack of diversity means a lack of exploration, discussion, and debate about change projects and business strategy. When everyone thinks and acts the same way, opportunities are missed and wrong paths taken.

3. Measurement of success stuck in the past

Linked closely to the problem of a narrowly focused senior team, measurements of success get stuck in the past. Success is measured by what was and not by what could be. When this happens, organisations become complacent. They fail to see the competition around them, and also fail to engage with their clients and customersí changing needs. Then they fail, full-stop.

4. Management structure and process stuck in the past

Itís easy to get stuck in a rut, and even easier for organisational management to do the same. Processes that worked twenty years ago are no longer relevant in todayís modern, fast paced business economy. Performance management, personal development, strategy planning and budgeting, as well as succession planning fail to keep pace with evolving market standards.

Managers need coaching in a wide range of leadership techniques as an integral part of their continuing professional development targets. Team training sessions help not only to develop the team environment, but also to identify leaders of the future. Flatter and more interactive management structures help create a more engaged and proactive workforce.

5. Intolerance of failure creates failure

Itís clear that the more successful an organisation becomes, the more risk averse it becomes. It is scared of upsetting shareholders, managers, and executive teams. It wonít experiment, and therefore loses the innovative quality that created its success. Not every new product or service will succeed. Remember that, and you may just find the Ďnext iPadí.

For your change project to be effective, prepare to change your organisation first

The responsibility for effective change lies squarely on the shoulders of senior management. Yet it is the senior management and structure of the organisation that may be stopping a change project from producing the long-term results it promises. In order to see the benefits of organisational change, it is therefore necessary to prepare the organisation for change.

Source: PMI, Daniel Lock

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