Project Management

4 Reasons Change Initiatives Fail

Emma Weber, Patricia Pulliam Phillips and Jack Phillips

It’s likely that you already know that most change initiatives fail to deliver on their promise; you’ve almost certainly experienced it in your working life. Let's explore why change so often falls short — especially when behavioral change is required as part of the change initiative.

Change initiatives rarely get people to actually change their behavior because of four key factors. There is:

  • no ownership of the change;
  • little understanding of what’s needed after the change;
  • loss of control for those involved in the change;
  • little appreciation of the difference between reinforcement and reflection.

1. No ownership of the change.

Change is almost always initiated top-down and there is no involvement or buy-in from those who actually need to change. Companies may clearly communicate the ‘why’ behind the change but it’s a false belief that selling the why hard enough will be enough to create the ownership.

There is rarely a coherent, integrated approach where everyone involved shares the ownership of change from start to finish. As a result, the ‘little things’ that have such a profound effect on successful change implementation can too easily slip through the cracks between various stakeholders’ responsibilities.

No one owns the change and so it simply doesn’t get done, is only partially implemented or simply peters out. Often the burning platform …

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"Ninety percent of the politicians give the other ten percent a bad reputation."

- Henry Kissinger