Why Change Management Fails, my Top 20 list

Change is like taxes, inevitable. George Bernard Shaw once wrote that ‘Progress is impossible without change; and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything’. With this in mind, why does change seem so difficult?

 There is no single answer to this question. It’s often a combination of influences that, hamper progress. W. Edwards Deming summed this up perfectly for us with his quote ‘Two basic rules of life are: 1) Change is inevitable 2) Everybody resists change’.

 If we take Deming’s quote at face value, we can see that change ultimately brings into play the ‘people dynamic’ and as such we should hold this as core to any changer initiatives we chose to bring into action. To aid in our understanding of change, its limitations and to highlight what influences should we bring into play, I’ve created my Top 20 list of things to look out, for and to make sure you include in your thinking.

 Before I provide my Top 20 list of considerations, I want to bring into play one last quote (you may have gathered that I like to use quotes) from the modern management guru Deepak Chopra, ‘All great changes are preceded by chaos’. Deepak is therefore implying that change is a reactive rather than proactive activity which will apply its own pressures and drivers into consideration when planning any change initiative. What do you think, is he right in his assumption?

 And now to the reason why you are reading this article, my Top 20 reasons why change fails:

 1.      The reasons for a specific change are not clear

2.      Delay in acting — Leaving it too late can bring inevitable impacts

3.      Management do not or will not adapt to the change as it brings discomfort

4.      The methodology applied to the change initiative can be the wrong one

5.      Internal pushback is not managed correctly, active resistance could flourish

6.      Up and downstream impacts are not considered, and chaos can happen

7.      Management are not onboard or seen to be behind the change initiative

8.      There is no compelling reason to change, there’s no clarity as to why and we have no buy-in

9.      Organisational culture is ignored, and clashes will happen

10.  Resistance may not be managed proactively and therefore it will become acceptable

11.  The change initiative tries to do too much, too quickly and nothing will get done

12.  People can be fed up of yet more change, it becomes a merry-go-round of activities

13.  Communication weaknesses can lead to mixed messages along the way

14.  People may get frustrated when change doesn’t happen today, we are fundamentally impatient individuals

15.  The stakeholder goals are not taken into consideration, they will never be happy

16.  No though is given to management politics or agendas and resistance can become inevitable

17.  If an initiative is under staffed or under funded, too many corners may get cut

18.  The focus is on systems only ignoring the collaborative influence of people and processes

19.  Not enough experience is leveraged in driving change and silly mistake will be made

20.  Some people simply will not change the way they do or see things.

So, what have I missed? What other influences and considerations should we bear in mind when considering change and its application? What advice will you give others?