Three reasons why change management programmes fail

It’s thought up to 70% of change management programmes fail. Recognising the key reasons why is the first stage in making sure your programme does not become part of this statistic.


Poor approach to people management

There are three key areas to consider when running a change programme: people, process, and technology, and they have to be managed together and coordinated for a change to be successful. Often, the most challenging part of a change programme is the people. People can exhibit emotional reactions to change but processes and technology cannot.
 Adopting the right approach to people is a key skill of a good change manager, as a change programme will only be successful if people are aware of what is going to happen, why the change is taking place, when and how it will affect them, and understand their part in delivering a successful change.
You can’t make change decisions for people but what you can do is to help people make the best decisions they can for themselves. No one ever sets out to deliberately make a bad decision! People generally make the best decision in light of the information that is available to them at the time. That is the true skill of a great change manager. The ability to provide the right data in the right way to the right person to help them make the right decision.
In his book ‘Good to great’, Jim Collins uses the analogy of a bus to describe change programmes. He says: “Those who build great organizations make sure they have the right people on the bus and the right people in the key seats before they agree a route and start to drive the bus. They always think first about who and then about what. When facing chaos and uncertainty, and you cannot possibly predict what's coming around the corner, your best ‘strategy’ is to have a busload of people who can adapt to and perform brilliantly no matter what comes next.”
 So, for change to be successful, the right people need to be ‘on the bus’, and they need to be happy to be there for the ride!
Inconsistencies over pace of delivery
Consistent delivery is key, making sure you know the speed you need to go at to get to where you need to be at the right time. It’s a bit like running a marathon – if you start off sprinting you’re not going to make the distance, but if you pick the right consistent pace you have a great chance of getting to the end.
In their quest to reach the South Pole, a round trip of 1400 miles, Scott failed and Amundsen succeeded partly because Amundsen was more consistent. No matter whether the conditions were good or bad, Amundsen and his team covered 15-20 miles a day. Scott and his team would push on if conditions were good, covering up to 40 miles a day, but they would be exhausted the next day and struggle more. It’s human nature to want to make hay while the sun shines but change programmes taking this approach are more likely to fail because not everyone can keep up when the weather is bad.
Lack of support from the top

When managing people though change programmes you need to communicate a clear vision so you can give people something to aim for. You need strong leadership if you’re going to motivate people to consistently cover the right ground. You also need the right team members, in the correct places in the organisation to deliver.
It’s about having good processes and making available thespace to exercise them. Running a business can take 100% of you and your people’s time, making it difficult to work on a change programme too. You’re working so hard in the business you don’t have time to work on the business.  It can also take time for your brain to switch context between diverse but involved activities, so you need to plan to be less than 100% productive when managing change, and business as usual.  It can be more effective to have six people doing one change each than two people doing three each and being overloaded, confused and lacking focus.
Senior stakeholders must sponsor change for it to work. Time must be taken to guide change, remove obstacles and help ensure all levels of seniority buy into the change. No matter how obvious the change may be, unless the person at the top supports it, and encourages others to do so, it won’t work. Big change programmes need clear leadership and accountability from the top and sponsorship of a programme can be a full time job in itself.
What can Greenlight do to help?
Greenlight can provide resources and expertise to either drive or fill any gaps in your change programmes. We have the processes and the frameworks to give you the best chance of delivery. We can be there in an advisory capacity, helping you think about issues and talking though a programme with you, or we can actually help you do it -  our expert change teams are ‘sleeves-up’ and ‘can-do’, helping ensure that your changes deliver on-time and to budget.
We’re here to talk to you about how to make change happen.