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In a world of constant, sometimes frenzied change, there are a few truisms that we can cling to (or that cling to us) that remind us, no matter how different tomorrow looks compared to yesterday, some things stay the course. Stuff like:

  • Free coffee, tea, soft drinks and other goodies invariably make any work situation better – even on a Monday morning after yet another “working weekend.”
  • No matter how wrong it is on every level, some people will still check for emails and texts during meetings.
  • Change management projects are far more likely to fail than succeed.

Now, as rewarding as it would be to explore the first two items on the list, the third demands our immediate attention. After all, while freebies and meeting etiquette are important, keeping Change Management projects from joining the 70% that get whacked with the horrifying FAIL stamp could mean organizational success, and sometimes, organizational survival.

So where should we start? Most of us have a few grizzly Change Management project tales to share (i.e. the types that are usually suitable for re-telling in the hotel lounge during a conference, because the language can get a bit…colorful).

However, instead of putting together a compilation of our most horrifying experiences (even Stephen King would be frightened) it’ll be faster, more practical, and ultimately far more useful – if less colorful – to highlight three major reasons why change fails in organizations. Not surprisingly, all of them start with the word “Lack”:

1. Lack of Alignment

Change can’t – and doesn’t – happen unless all stakeholders are in alignment about something that may seem blatantly (or even painfully) obvious: why the change is happening in the first place. Forget about how the change should happen, when it should happen, who should lead it, or where it should take place. All of these are critical aspects, and need to be addressed. Yet before we can explore them, there must be a fundamental agreement on the need for change. Without this foundation, to paraphrase Sun Tzu: the Change Management project is doomed to failure before it begins. You tell ‘em, Sun.

2. Lack of Commitment

Change Management isn’t about achieving an objective and then moving onto the next challenge. Change Management projects are only as successful if the gains they achieve, or the potential they enable, are maintained into the future. For this to happen, organizations must commit to supporting the change far beyond the technical “end date” of the project. What’s more, this commitment needs to be expressed on all levels: cultural, financial and political.

3. Lack of Technology & Tools

Change management projects are similar in some ways to conventional projects – and different in others. Unfortunately, most project management software paints all projects with the same clunky “time and task-heavy” brush. And while this isn’t necessarily fatal for some conventional projects (though it’s certainly not helpful), it’s an imposition that most Change Management projects can’t handle – and so before long, they end up circling the drain and contributing to the 70% failure rate. Seen in this light, it wasn’t the Change Management project that failed: it was the project’s technology and tools that failed to enable the essential transparency, collaboration and communication it needed to succeed.

How to Make Change Management Projects Succeed

Identifying these core – and common – problems that undermine Change Management project success is necessary; dwelling on them, however, is unhelpful.

And so in that light, let’s turn our attention from what’s gone (and going) wrong, to how to make Change Management project succeed. To point you and your organization in that direction, check out the following article, Welcome to the Nimble Workplace of the Future, One Fostering Constant Change.