5 Reasons Why Change Transformations Fail

A checklist for you, related business units, clients and management to avoid failure at your enterprise

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In the vast majority of change management and business transformation related studies we read that many change efforts fail. We can commonly find citations like: “40% of automation efforts fail,” “7 from 10 lean initiatives are not successful,” or “70% of digital business change actions do not bring value.” Those reports prove that the ratio of successful transformations or change initiatives (even supported by external consultants) fall miserably low.

Understanding the above, I’ve come up with my thoughts on the five (5) reasons I believe change and transformation actions fail:

  1. Lack of understanding why the change takes place
  2. Lack of product or target vision
  3. Lack of management understanding and support
  4. Lack of WIIFM for Clients, Business and Employees
  5. And finally, a lack of tracking and monitoring discipline

First and foremost, the biggest “sin of change efforts” is a lack of understanding why the initiative is taking place. To address this issue, ask the question, “Why exactly are we implementing this (lean initiative or RPA product or digital transformation)?” This should be asked and answered in a way that 5 year old could understand (or more seriously any adult from other business environment). And the question, “What is the business case and ROI?” should follow, with clear answers showing properly quantified reason for this initiative.

The Second topic– much connected with the first– is lack of vision and understanding of the product (often linked to lack of product ownership). This means that nobody really knows what the “product” of transformation should look like and the non-negotiable qualities it should contain. It is especially painful to see agile initiatives where nobody knows what the product is and unsurprisingly, the whole initiative turns into series of useless rituals around intervals and iterations. To prevent this, clear vision of and a true understanding of the product should be available.

The third change initiative killer is a lack of management support. This happens for a variety of reasons and deserves a separate article for contextualization. But bowing to brevity– too often, project/change managers and middle management are fighting an uphill battle for the transformation with lack of support (or even worse hidden opposition from top management).

The fourth issue is a lack of WIIFM (What’s In It For Me) regarding employees, business units and clients. I strongly believe that transformation initiatives that do not bring a win-win-win to clients, business operations and employees simultaneously are damned from the very beginning. Too often we see transformation initiatives that fail to focus on employees or clients. It should then not be difficult to understand why those groups do not support it. Equally, often business operations are a ”victim” of a transformation initiative that is forced upon them without clear benefits explained.

The fifth topic is a lack of tracking and monitoring discipline. Once the transformation initiative has started, and fame distributed (“WOW we run a blockchain based product now!!!”) the projects looses rigidity and often becomes a “zombie,” dragging forever without clear final, ROI or decommissioning action.

Hope you enjoyed the read. For more join CITO group on LinkedIn, or one of our evening talks meetings.