Factors That Can Sabotage Change Management

Many change and improvement efforts are lost or result in poor outcomes due to poor management. Decades of studies have consistently shown that 50–70 percent of changes are failing. There are as many reasons that those endeavours do not succeed.
Many transition and change strategies have been hugely successful. In fact, some see increases in customer service, quality of projects, teamwork, morale, productivity, innovation, and cost-effectiveness. Most fail because they have not implemented a plan that has many stages, all of which include open, honest and direct lines and opportunities for communication.

Here are some factors to watch closely.

1. Priority Overload

Many people, managers included, are not great at organizing and prioritizing when setting up for a change. The issues that are going to have the greatest impact need to be dealt with early on and compelling reasons as to why this particular order has been set up needs to be clearly explained to all those involved. In fact, if you can bring them into the discussion as this is being decided, there will be much more cooperation and buy in.

2. Partial and Piecemeal

Most projects flounder amidst political infighting, segmentation, and confusion. In addition, many improvement efforts are too narrow and segmented. Broad, system-wide, “cause and effect”’ issues aren’t identified and addressed. Improvement teams work with bits and pieces of processes and systems. When this happens there is confusion and a lack of focus on what is actually to be accomplished, which again is counter-productive to achieving the desired outcomes. The actual changes need to be clearly articulated along the process to be followed to accomplish this change.

3. No clear, in-depth transition process

Without a clear, multi-layered transition plan, the change, which is the “event” can never happen. All aspects of the process must be carefully laid out with lots of opportunity for feedback, clear means of support, definite timeline and opportunities to address the rampant rumors that arise when change is being discussed. Humans generally are not very fond of change so unless very compelling reasons for how this new process or system or whatever you are introducing can be offered so that they can understand why this will be good for them as well as the organization, it will be a long, hard uphill battle to get people on board. Having sessions where employees can ask questions and learn more about how this will affect them is extremely important as people worry about how the change will affect their job, their responsibilities, their position and their future. Often their conclusions are incorrect and that is why the executive team and the middle management must be completely on board with the change and able to address any concerns that employees may be worried about.

4. Leadership Lip Service

The single most critical variable to the success of transition process is the behaviour of those leading it. Successful change efforts are led by people who are highly committed leaders. They model, use, and live the approaches they are asking their team or organization to embrace. If the leaders only pay lip service, even passionate lip service, to the importance of the changes they are attempting to implement, employees will not likely buy into the process. In other words, the leaders must “walk the walk” and model their commitment to this new way of doing things, just talking about it will not encourage others to agree to the change.

Once the management team has established a change and improvement plan, there are many ways to help everyone in the organization understand what’s going on and why. These include one-on-one discussions, group presentations, workshops or seminars, videos, printed materials, and the like. The more opportunities there are to clearly demonstrate how all of this will work and how we are all going to arrive at this successfully, the more likely you will be to have your process go smoothly.

The best approaches, are personal and interactive. Rather than just presenting the changes or improvement plan, effective education and communication engage everyone in discussions that deepen understanding and provide feedback, options, and further ideas to the team guiding the improvement effort. That’s why workshops or seminars featuring presentations and discussions by senior managers are such an effective educational tool in the improvement process.

Remember, the most important step in all of this is clearly explaining why this change is necessary and how it will benefit the employees, the organization as a whole as well as your customers. The better this part of the process is delivered the more likely it will be that the entire transition will result in the change you wish to achieve.


Sandy Chernoff
Sandy Chernoff
SANDY'S 30 years of didactic and clinical teaching in study clubs and continuing dental education, coupled with her almost 40 years of Dental Hygiene practice bring a wealth of experience to her interactive soft skills workshops. With her education background she easily customizes interactive sessions to suit the specific needs of her clients. Her energetic and humorous presentation style has entertained and informed audiences from Victoria to New York City. Sandy’s client list includes law firms, teaching institutions, volunteer and professional organizations and conferences, businesses, and individuals. Her newest project is turning her live workshops into e-learning programs using an LMS platform. Her teaching and education background have helped her to produce meaningful and somewhat interactive courses for the learners wanting the convenience of e-learning options. As the author of 5 Secrets to Effective Communication, Sandy has demonstrated her ability to demystify the complexities of communication so that the reader can learn better strategies and approaches which will greatly improve their communication skills and ultimately reduce conflict, resentment, disappointment, complaining, and confusion. As a result, the reader will be able to increase productivity, efficiency and creativity, improve all the relationships in their lives and ultimately enjoy a happier, healthier existence! Sandy blogs regularly on her two websites on the various soft skills topics that are featured in her workshops and e-learning programs.

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  1. I think a crucial factor is that the wrong people are getting promoted. There are people out there talk are really good at talking a good game. They have that system, that approach that always works.

    Well, with large changes or the other extreme such as many tightly coupled small changes, these systems don’t work. It’s because when there are many changes that are involved, any ideology may that be from the realms of strategy, analysis, or even leadership — they all shatter like glass.

    Once we stop thinking ideologies and start thinking of rules of thumb such as cause and effect success rates drastically increase.

    • Hi Chris,
      Interesting perspective…..I agree that the leadership has to determine the way forward. Yes promotions could affect the process and many organizations have some unique requirements for promotion, many of which do not work very well as they probably have not offered the appropriate training to make them effective in their new position. Sometimes it is being in the right place at the right time or the relationship created that helped the decision. In any event, in the end, it really is the executive team who need to drive change will appropriate support, lines of communication, and lots of active listening to explain away fears, rumors and other impediments to transition actually becoming the change.