Change Management News WalkMe TeamUpdated March 25, 2021

5 Major Barriers to Organizational Change

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5 Major Barriers to Organizational Change

In change management, you will deal with many barriers to organizational change.

Below, we will cover 5 of the biggest barriers … along with tips to avoid them.

What Are the Biggest Barriers to Organizational Change?

Anyone involved in organizational change will have to face – and overcome – some big obstacles.

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Whether you are a change manager, a business leader, or an HR professional, you will stumble across these barriers.

It pays to know about these barriers before you have to deal with them … so you can prepare, prevent, and avoid them as much as possible.

1. Employee Resistance

Employee resistance is one of the top barriers to organizational change.

Many change models, in fact, make overcoming this resistance a core part of their approach.

Such resistance can stem from:

  • Fear of the unknown
  • Fear of job loss, automation, or irrelevance
  • The extra workload required by change programs

Among other things.

Surmounting this obstacle is not easy, but it can be done.

A few key tips include:

  • Communicating transparently and openly about the change program
  • Selling employees on the personal benefits of the change
  • Encouraging participation in the change instead of mandating it from the top down

By giving employees a chance to participate in and benefit from the program, they’ll be more likely to support it.

2. Inertia

Inertia is similar to resistance.

However, resistance is an active reaction to change – employees, middle managers, and other stakeholders actively oppose the change.

Inertia refers to the existing motion of an organization, a process, or a group of people.

For instance, people may be used to operating a certain way. Through inertia, they habitually perform processes this way.

Even if they do not actively resist change, they are not actively promoting it.

Habit and culture can keep people entrenched in the same procedures – unless steps are taken to generate awareness, interest, and desire for change.

It is important to understand the difference between resistance and inertia.

To prevent inertia, it is advisable to:

  • Work with key influencers
  • Communicate a clear vision for change
  • Celebrate successes and short-term wins

Also, the tips for successfully preventing resistance can help stimulate proactive change.

3. Obsolete Technology

Digital technology is the future, and the future has arrived.

However, not all companies are cutting-edge and modern.

This is understandable.

The only organizations on the cutting edge are those actually developing the technology.

However, many companies are not as far along as they could be.

Advanced technology can help organizations change more efficiently and more quickly.

Here are a few tools that can make change programs more effective:

Every tool has a different application, such as onboarding, training, task automation, and so on.

Explore different tools and weak points in your processes.

Doing so can help you identify opportunities and ROI potentials.

4. Executive Buy-In

Another common problem is lack of executive sponsorship.

Without sponsorship, you can expect a number of other obstacles, such as:

  • Fewer available resources
  • More resistance from above and below
  • Constraints on budgets and timelines

Lack of support from leadership is one of the top reasons that programs fail or fail to meet objectives.

To obtain executive support, there are a few things that must be done:

  • Change initiators must make it a priority to obtain support
  • They must sell leaders on the organizational and strategic benefits of the change program
  • They must continually maintain that support as the program progresses

The reality of business is that everyone wants to know “what’s in it for them.”

This is true at every level of the organization.

When you attempt to gain executive support, therefore, focus on ways that your program benefits the leadership.

5. Inadequate Communication

Strategic communication is perhaps the most important skill for change managers and change leaders.

However, just having good communication skills is not enough.

You need to develop a goal-oriented communications strategy.

Your communications strategy should consist of:

  • Targeted messages
  • A variety of mediums
  • Goals and milestones
  • Metrics and analytics

This approach will help you design a communications plan that gets results.

More importantly, it will allow you create specific targets and measure your progress.

Doing so will help you understand what’s working, what’s not, and what you can do to improve.

Fundamentally, such an ROI-driven approach will help your program avoid the barriers mentioned above.

And you will stand a much greater chance of meeting your objectives.


These are five of the most common barriers to organizational change.

If you prepare thoroughly and carefully, these barriers can be surmounted – or even completely avoided.

To get the best results from your change program, ensure that you develop a sophisticated, well-structured change program … and obtain support from stakeholders across the organization.

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