Change Management WalkMe TeamUpdated December 3, 2021

Why Organizational Change Initiatives Fail

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Why Organizational Change Initiatives Fail

According to data published by John Kotter in 1995, approx. 70% of organizational change initiatives fail. Recent research undertaken by Scott Keller and Carolyn Aiken confirm this rate despite the apparent evolutionary change management. The two authors mentioned in the McKinsey Quarterly in April 2009 that the low rate of success related to change management occurs due to two main elements: employee attitudes and behavior management.

Conditions for Successful Organizational Change

In order to meet these obstacles, the two experts propose a set of 4 conditions necessary for successful organizational change, considering the nature of the human resource of the organization, including its size irrational and unpredictable:

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  •  Develop an attractive motivation for the proposed change initiative;
  •  Develop an attractive motivation for the proposed change initiative;
  •  Strengthen and support the implementation of change;
  •  Building organizational capacity for change, both at individual and organizational.

Develop an attractive motivation

  •  People have different professional motivations. Therefore motivation or communicated substantiate the change process to generate change must have several versions to “talk” to each person involved.
  •  People are up to 5 times more involved in an action if they are given the word. The development of motivation change is more effective if dealing with employee involvement and hearing their proposals.
  •  The balance between a poor approach and a constructive approach to the process of change generates enough energy to change. Poor approach to change highlights, a lack of counterclaims or a problem to be solved can generate resistance to change. Constructive approach to change emphasizes a goal to achieve or an opportunity to be exploited; it can generate enthusiasm, but also may expose the organization to risk contingencies. Balancing the two approaches to overcome obstacles and mobilize the entire organization in an optimal way.

Providing a Behavioral Model

  •  Leaders of the organization, regardless of management, consider themselves already changing, in other words they do is desire changing.
  • In practice leaders are themselves an obstacle to organizational change, resistance to change factor.
  •  Opinion leaders are not so influential. Organization does not need to invest too much in his opinion leaders as change catalyst elements because, in reality, success depends less on the init (early adopters), and more than acceptance of the environment (society). This is one of the main reasons why organizational change initiatives fail.

Strengthen implementation and support of organizational change initiatives

  • Giving financial incentives to employees is the most expensive method of reasoning. Although the correlation between change and program objectives rewarding employees is recommended, however, found that there are other effective and less expensive solutions.
  • -Correct implementation in the process of change is as important as a correct result. We found that when changing implemented is at odds with its own system of values of equity and fairness, employees will often act against their own interest. Therefore, it is recommended for the change be designed taking into account fairness (ethics) and objectiveness during its implementation.

Building organizational capacity for change

  • Employees are what they think they are. Behavior generates performance and employee behavior is given their mentality: all  thoughts, feelings, beliefs, etc. Building human resource capacity needs to address both the technical skills to assimilate and evolution at the individual mentality and vision that supports the optimal use of new skills.
  • Good intentions are not enough. Even if employees are well-intentioned they will integrate new mindset and new skills in the absence of a suitable climate. It is recommend to create an environment which encourages communication with employees and intermediate targets, which are to support and guide the process of change.

The 5 obstacles in Change Management

In 2012 the American company consulting Prosci has conducted a study to identify best practices in the field. One of the survey questions addressed to professionals in the field was: “What are the obstacles in change management?”. According to the survey, they identified the following five main obstacles, in order of frequency:

1. Support from leaders in the organization ineffective

80% of change initiatives that have received effective support from organizational leaders have met or exceeded objectives. Among the problems identified by professionals in the field, on this obstacle include:

• Poor or conflict involvement or low commitment to change, the initiators of the change process;
• Lack of alignment between the goals and objectives of organizational change process, which creates confusion among employees;
• Lack of authority from the initiators.

2. Insufficient resources allocated to Change Management

When management does not really support organization change initiatives and allocate human resources, materials, etc., insufficient or inappropriate, this hampers or even sabotage the change process.

3. Resistance to change from employees

The authors mention that a certain resistance to change is inevitable, but recommends two areas of action for clearing:

• Top level management: raising the level of understanding about the need to change (or change substantiation);
• The level of middle management (direct boss) highlights how change affects people in the organization.

Among the causes of resistance to change from employees were identified:

• Lack of understanding on the need for change;
• Employees who are near retirement or who want to learn something new (systems, tools, skills);
• Feeling of insecurity in the face of change;
• Unpleasant experiences related to previous change processes;
• Employees involved in too many change initiatives.

4. Resistance to change in the middle management level in the organization.

Resistance to change by managers at this level is due to causes identified:

• Managers do not support the change initiative because they do not understand or accept the need for change;
• Uncertainty in the face of change and fear of job loss;
• Lack of knowledge and skills in change management;
• Lack of time to properly manage the change process.

5. Weak communication.

Clear communication, transparency and honest regarding the need and impact of change is critical to the success of the initiative.

Also, the person who transmits messages must have sufficient authority within the organization so that communication to have impact. Advantageously, the process of communication to focus more on the need for change and less on the details of implementation, so people do not lose sight of the main objective during the implementation process of change.


In conclusion, the experts agree that the essential element in organizational change management, which lead to either their success or failure, relies in human resources and helpdesk support. Any approach that ignores human aspects, psychology and the evolution of the people involved, both employees and promoters / agents of change, risk – in an overwhelmingly high manner – to fail. This is the main reason why organizational change initiatives fail.

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