Reasons Why Change Management Projects Fail

As businesses continue to undergo transformational projects, the demand for good change management skills and leaders continues to rise. Catherine Finn, Head of Change Management at Storm shares some common reasons why change initiatives fail and how to address them.

The author of this page: Catherine Finn
Catherine Finn, Head of Change Management Mar 11, 2021

With the working environment constantly changing, businesses are undergoing numerous transformational projects to keep up with market changes. Critical to the success of any of these projects is the need to manage organisational change correctly. According to McKinsey, 70% of change programmes fail to meet their objectives however, Gartner reported that nearly 75% of organisations expect to multiply the types of major change initiatives they plan to undertake within the next three years.

With the number of change initiatives that are ongoing and planned continuing to rise, the need for change management and good change management skills is becoming more essential to businesses. Below we explore some of the common reasons change management projects don’t meet their goals and how to address them.

Lack of a Communication Plan

A common mistake for many businesses is mistaking an implementation plan for a communication plan. Communication at all levels is important, employees cannot be expected to suddenly change their behaviour to suit the new plan. This can lead to change resistance. It is important to express to employees the reason behind the change. They should know how it will impact their job and their day-to-day tasks. Explaining the process to employees should compel them to support the change internally. A thorough communication plan should use a mix of communication channels to explain the change, when the change is happening and allow employees to voice their concerns and ask questions in response.

No Clear Project Scope

One common barrier to success is often a lack of decision on the scope of the organisational change. Without a clear vision for the future, it is hard to efficiently plan for it. It is critical to ask a number of questions before starting your change management project: what is changing?; why is it changing?; what is the impact of not completing the change?; and how will success be measured? When companies begin planning, they tend to start with technical objectives, business objectives and budgets while forgetting to consider that the human side of business change must be planned too.

No Leadership Support

Leadership support and sponsorship greatly contribute to the success of any change management project. Leaders must model and champion the change for the organisation. They must be active in supporting change activities and committing to sharing the benefits of the change with employees while also addressing any queries or concerns. Leaders must be able to commit their support for the entire life-cycle of the change project. Sponsors play a significant role in not only initially driving change in the organisation but also in reinforcing it to ensure optimal success and return on investment.

Not Giving Employees the Capacity to Change

With employees already busy with their daily job duties, it is critical that the change initiatives do not feel like additional work. Avoid making employees feel overloaded by ensuring the change management plan ensures there is enough time for employees to adjust to each step of the change. Critical to this is ensuring they have the correct tools and the correct training where required. Successful change is a process and giving employees the time they require to become fully trained in a system can make the transition easier and prove more valuable in the long run.

Poor Change Management Skills

The success of a change management project depends on the skill of the change leaders. The leaders of a change initiative are those who must deal with and solve each problem that may arise as well as any change resistance from the organisation. Therefore the level of skill they possess tends to impact the course of the project. Often leaders develop to be focused on business objectives rather than always taking the human impact into account. This can lead to the people leading transformational projects having a priority focus on systems rather than the people. Before starting a change initiative is it a good idea to seek outside guidance if you lack the skills in-house.

If you would like to learn more about how your organisation can reach success with Change Management, contact one of our specialists today.

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