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Five reasons why change interventions fail.

The rate of change throughout society has increased exponentially with many people citing advancing technologies as the catalyst for accelerating change. When compared to the past millennium, the ever-increasing rate of change seems more prevalent today than ever.


Whilst change is generally accepted as a necessary consequence to improve our living standards and work practices, change undoubtedly presents many uncertainties and insecurities for individuals, communities and organisations. Typically within traditional sectors, ingrained organisational cultures tend to be particularly resistant to change. Likewise, traditions and business rituals are often difficult to break as they provide comfort and familiarity.


With change comes many challenges, and if not managed well, such challenges can derail objectives from being achieved from what would otherwise have been a desirable outcome. Listed below are five reasons why we believe that change interventions can derail.


The rationale for changing is not shared

Change is often fiercely resisted when the people who are directly impacted are uninformed, under-informed or misinformed about the rationale for the change. This often leads to suspicion and a lack of trust. Conversely, when the consequences of not changing are clearly articulated and understood, the fear of not changing will often outweigh the fear of changing. Introducing frequent communication via multiple mediums to convey the need for change is an essential step towards educating and motivating employees to embrace the change.

Insufficient budget for change

Why change if a sufficient budget is not tagged to the change? Many projects are compromised when it comes to the cost associated with change rather than viewing the cost as an investment in the organisation’s future success. Key to any budget should be the cost of an ‘Ambassador for Change’ team to help promote the benefits of the change and to drive effective transformation initiatives. Such budget goes a long way towards assisting people who are not coping with the change. In particular, those who are fixed-minded and can be inclined to undermine change, which ultimately results in not achieving the benefits and value intended for the future success. 

Deficient sponsorship

Initiating a successful change program requires building trust which in turn drives motivation. Good sponsorship driven by executive management requires frequent and open communication focused on what the change will look like and the expected benefits, why the change is necessary, and how the change will and is unfolding. Many case studies often shared and published highlight that a lack of sponsorship exposure, accountability and engagement is the number one reason why change projects fail to meet their objectives.

Absence of a structured change program

Effectively managing change includes a pre-determined structure and a set of guiding principles to be followed. Similar to building a house with a blueprint, introducing a change management program requires controls and disciplines to deliver and achieve the objectives that necessitated the change in the first place. With countless change models available today, finding one that best suits your organisation’s culture and aligns with the proposed change interventions, is an important consideration. 

Under-resourced or an inadequately skilled project team

Successful change projects are threatened when mediocre project management and change management practices are adopted. These problems are often pronounced when project team members are burdened with business-as-usual responsibilities together with project responsibilities and deadlines. Similarly, inadequately skilled project team members allocated responsibilities beyond their capabilities often leads to costly and unsatisfactory outcomes. Subsequently, a cornerstone to delivering a successful change project is to invest in appointing a competent, motivated and dedicated project manager and project team.   


Robert Wagner, Managing Partner, Harriss Wagner Consultants and Advisers

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