Why Change Initiatives Fail

June 11, 2013

kayak back cropWe live in a world of permanent change – one in which, whatever job title you hold, your real job is in fact change. Yet, the majority of efforts to change organizations fail, often at enormous cost to these enterprises, their members, customers, and stakeholders.

Why do so many attempts at organizational change fall short? Certainly not for lack of advice. There is an entire industry based on exploring this subject. What’s missing? What needs to be done differently?

We need to improve our ability and commitment to model what we are trying to create, namely the behaviors we want to see or the old ones that we want to stop. What scenes do we wish would occur throughout a department or an organization that do not currently occur? What needs to change to make those scenes make sense to people, to lead people to create them, even when the leader is not present? More specifically, people adapt to the environment, so what change in their environment will facilitate their adapting, their changing of their behavior?

We need to delineate what constitutes the ultimate change objective, namely the desired behavioral change. We also need to coordinate or align the approach to changing the work systems that comprise the environment at work. The Work Systems Model is the core of Leading Successful Change and provides the basis for the mindset and the techniques presented in the book which in turn stem from and support focusing on changing behaviors by changing the world or environment at work.

An additional word about scenes. Scenes portray the desired behaviors as they would play out in a video clip of the post change world. Clearly constructed scenes facilitate greater clarity about just what the desired change is. Scenes also provide a focus: to foster the behavioral change, what organizational changes need to take place? People adapt to their worlds. What world will lead to adaptive behavior resembling the desired change behavior? The Work Systems Model aids a leader of change in identifying and implementing the required organizational or environmental changes.

Transforming an organization certainly isn’t for the faint of heart. Doing so takes patience, discipline, and even courage. But it can be done. It has been done successfully, time and again, following the approach laid out in Leading Successful Change. And, you can do it.

Our era is dominated by the reality that change is constant. We all need to get better at it – and sooner, rather than later. You owe yourself and the people depending upon your leadership no less. Future newsletter articles will expand on the overall points made here. (For more on why change initiatives fail and how to succeed, see the Introduction available at Leading Successful Change. Click the About the Book tab and then go to the bottom right hand corner of the page that comes into view.)