Why Your Past Organizational Changes Failed and How You Can Succeed This Time


Leaders who want to avoid repeating past failures don’t tell anyone anything. They ask people to tell them if and how their plan for change feels different in an attempt to learn.” This wise advice from Ron Carucci hints at why so many managers fail to lead their organizations successfully through big changes.

Up to 70% of change initiatives in organizations fail. That's an enormous statistic. On a daily basis, we encounter disruptions from every direction. Change might mean introducing a new product, bringing on a partner, or reorganizing the company to meet new challenges in the marketplace. Here's how you can increase the chances of successfully leading change.

Analyze Past Mistakes

If you’ve struggled to lead change previously, your next major organizational initiative likely won’t succeed either, unless you fix what caused those failures. In too many organizations, leaders are eager to chase after the shiny new object without asking themselves why they failed last time. Surely this time, they think, their new product will make a hit in the marketplace. After all, the sales manager is on board with the idea. What could go wrong?

Get Buy-​in

Plenty, it turns out. Too many managers overlook organizational problems in their quest for success. If the IT or marketing department lacks the talent they need, they are unlikely to be able to support the sales department in reaching new goals. If talent mismatch was a problem in your last initiative, fix it before you proceed with the next one.

To ensure that your new plan will succeed, you also need the support of key employees and managers. Solicit their input as you design goals and listen to their concerns about why aiming for a 10% sales increase in a challenging business environment might not work. Thank them for their input. It takes courage to speak up and tell the truth. If you’re serious about making your plan work, you must count on your team members to be honest with you. 

Adjust Course As Necessary

Beyond that, don’t let your new initiative run on autopilot once it’s underway. Your team members will encounter unexpected developments. A key employee may leave. While the department manager may hope to make up the time lost, a healthy dose of realism is in order. When setbacks happen, adjust course. Extend the project deadline by a week or two. Or add resources to stay on track. Without continuous monitoring and adjusting, your project is likely to fail.