Why Organizational Change Initiatives Fail

When an organization’s culture is troubled, leaders often turn to organizational change as a way to right a sinking ship. These transformations take the lion’s share of the leadership’s and the organization’s time and attention. While a successful organizational change can completely transform company culture, a failed organizational change can result in mistrust, a lack of communication, and culture more toxic than when you began. So why do organizational changes fail?

4 Reasons Organizational Change Initiatives Fail

Change Doesn’t Happen at Every Level

The most fundamental reason that these changes fail is that the average company rarely has the combination of skills, mind-sets, and commitment needed to successfully execute a large-scale transformation, at every level of the organization. Most leaders are used to leading in times of stability and relative peace; they are not used to the rigorous pace needed to sustain an organizational change. Organizational changes a brutal and bruising. The status quo is hard to change and requires a sustained commitment from leaders that is more than most plan for and being able to prepare managers and team members at every level for the change.

Organizational changes require changes at every level of the organization, and that goes beyond the hierarchical structure. According to business coach Christine Comaford, there are six levels where change happens in individuals and organizations, including behavior change, identity, environment, and the most important one – the core.

Poorly Prepared Leaders

Like we mentioned previously, most leaders are used to working in times when conditions are steady and favorable. Craig Ive puts it this way on leaders who aren’t prepared for organizational change:

Odds are that their training and practical experience predominantly take place in times when extensive, deep-rooted, and rapid changes aren’t necessary. For many organizations, this relatively placid experience leads to a “steady state” of stable structures, regular budgeting, incremental targets, quarterly reviews, and modest reward systems. All that makes leaders poorly prepared for the much faster-paced, more bruising work of a transformation.

While transformation must happen at every level, it starts at the top and poorly prepared leaders are a sure-fire way of an organizational change failing.

Lack of Communication

To achieve true, long-lasting organizational change, the organization needs a clearly communicated change in belief and identity. Leaders need to have a clear and compelling belief and identity articulated that employees will embrace as their own. It’s important to be able to unite your employees around a shared purpose and work toward a shared identity. Identifying the places where your culture has broken down and communicating why they are counter to who you are as an organization, what you stand for an organization will help to anchor your employees to your reasons for change and, therefore, the change itself.

The Core Doesn’t Change

The most important part of a successful organizational change is actually changing the core of the organization. So many organizational changes fail because this simply doesn’t happen. 

To determine if you’re ignoring the core or actually working to transform it, consider some of these questions:

Is everyone working together toward the shared goals?

Are they supporting each other?

Is leadership communicating clearly and consistently?

If you can get to the core of the change and engage your employees around the why and how then you are well on your way to a successful organizational change.

Creating a Successful Organizational Change

Most any large transformation cannot be done alone. A partner who has been there and “done that” can be incredibly valuable in creating a successful organizational change. At Jubi, we help companies do this every single day and we’d love to help you too. Schedule a free demo to learn more.

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