7 Reasons Change and Development Programs FailA long list of studies shows that 50 – 70% of leadership, culture, and organization change and development efforts fail. For example, a Harvard Business Review article by Michael Beer and Nitin Nohria on “Cracking the Code of Change” concludes, “the brutal fact is that about 70% of all change initiatives fail.”

These efforts typically include:

  • Improving internal/external customer service
  • Boosting health and safety
  • Executing organizational changes
  • Enhancing productivity/efficiency
  • Strengthening leadership skills
  • Lifting morale/engagement levels
  • Strengthening teamwork/team building
  • Reducing turnover and absenteeism
  • Increasing quality
  • Implementing Lean/Six Sigma

This summer I reviewed research and our experiences in helping dozens of organizations with their change initiatives. Success or failure ultimately rests with the organization’s senior leadership team. Here are the common problems that trap many leadership teams and become the root causes of their failed change and development efforts:

  • Speed Traps and Tyranny of the Urgent – flooded by e-mails, endless meetings, and crisis management, many leaders become reactive micromanagers and lose sight of the big picture.
  • Partial and Piecemeal Programs – leadership training, succession planning, customer service, six sigma, safety, talent/performance management, IT systems, and such are disconnected and disjointed.
  • Leadership Lip Service – organizational leaders send contradictory messages about core values or embracing change by their inconsistent actions and behaviors.
  • Not Building Change Capacity – many change and development efforts fail to engage the hearts and heads of key leaders and frontline staff and don’t energize and equip them to make it happen.
  • Teams Not Pulling Together – strong leaders drive change in their “silo” and work at cross-purposes. This undermines both the team and the change/development effort.
  • Communication Breakdowns – leadership teams aren’t united in strategic priorities, key messages, behaviors that model the vision and values, and rigorous implementation planning.
  • Failing to Follow Through – strategies and development plans can quickly lose focus when they don’t have a robust implementation process engaging key teams with a disciplined follow through process.

How many of these traps are snaring your senior leadership team? What are you doing to avoid falling into these sinkholes?

Taking the team offsite for a few days can have a major impact on avoiding these problems. An offsite retreat can also lay the foundation to become one of the 30 – 50% of organizations with a very high and lasting impact from their change and development work.

See Leadership Team Retreats for configuration options and common retreat outcomes.