What are the 8 major reasons for failure in organizational change?

8 common reasons why change may fail and destroy organizations

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 8 common reasons why change may fail and destroy organizations
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Research indicates that 70% of change projects in organizations fail! Does this mean that we should forget about serious changes in the organization? Join us in this post to examine the most important reasons for failure in organizational change and solutions to deal with it.

Organizations deal with many cultural and structural problems every day. In order for the organization to grow and develop, it is necessary to identify and solve the basic obstacles and problems and solve them. If the culture or structure that causes problems is not changed in the appropriate time, it may lead to the collapse of the organization or it may make it difficult to conduct this change in the future. In fact, change in the organization is an integral part of any business. Organizational changes range from the smallest changes such as improving quality or improving operations and reducing costs in a small department to much larger changes such as basic technological changes in the overall infrastructure of the organization or changes in structure, management, and organizational culture. The bigger and wider the change is, the less likely it will be successful. Global research shows that 70% of organizational change projects fail.

Since companies cannot limit change forever and despite the existing risks in many cases, it is necessary to start the change in the organization as quickly as possible. It is necessary first to understand the reasons for failure in organizational change. By avoiding them, the probability of the success of the organizational transformation project can be raised. In the following, we will discuss the cultural barriers of the organization and the extent of its resistance to change, in addition to the reasons for the failure of change in organizations as well as the solutions and models for the successful implementation of change in the organization.

What is organizational change?

Organizational change refers to all the processes of change in an organization, including changes in strategy, structure, procedures, technology, and organizational culture and its effects on the organization. Organizational change can occur continuously, or it can occur at certain points in time. (Source)

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Why is a change in organizations necessary and inevitable?

Nowadays, the speed of change has increased a lot in the world. Changes in the political structure and laws of different societies, economic events at the level of countries, international economic changes, social challenges, technological advancement, and serious environmental changes have made companies face more challenges every day. Not paying attention to these events and changes can destroy a large organization or slow down its progress. Companies and organizations must be able to adapt to new circumstances and act accordingly in order to survive. These rapid changes and uncertainty affect the prediction of future events in all businesses including all public and private organizations in one form or another.

Creating change in organizations is not an easy task at all. In most cases, at the beginning of the change process, things tend to get bad. Knowing this can lead to a decrease in the desire of managers to implement necessary changes. Even in some cases, it can lead to the failure of change and severe damage in organizations. Among the reasons for failure in organizational change, we can refer to lack of knowledge, lack of sufficient skills, disruption of people, and anti-change organizational culture. However, it should be known that not making the necessary changes and adapting to the new emergency conditions will certainly harm the organization in the future and even may lead to its destruction in the long term.

Types of transformation and change in organizations

In general, organizational change falls into two categories: Strategic and sudden transformations and Incremental and step-by-step transformations. Also, from another angle, they can be classified into two categories: Anticipatory changes and Reactive changes. The following matrix can help us better classify the types of organizational transformation.

Incremental transformation that occurs step by step Strategic and sudden transformation
Anticipatory changes Adjust Orientation change
Reactive changes Adaptive Reconstructive


Factors Affecting Organizational Change

Many factors affect an organization’s readiness for change and decision-making and affect the process of implementing this change. In fact, one of the factors of complexity and difficulty in the success of organizational transformations is the large number and extent of influencing factors. To plan and implement a successful change, it is necessary to know these factors well and appropriately use them. Surveys on organizational changes at the world level show that considering the following 6 factors is necessary for any successful organizational change (source).

1. Common vision or ideal

One of the most important tasks of the leader of the organizational change process is to create a common idea or vision for the members of the organization and its employees to direct the path of change. What makes people satisfied with changing conditions and trying to improve in reality is the existence of a specific goal for this work, which gives them the necessary motivation to bear the risks and hardships of the change process. Also, if there is no common goal to seek, people’s efforts will not succeed.

2. Responsibility and accountability

Leadership that takes responsibility and accountability is needed in order to interact and move the change process from the higher levels of the organization to its lower levels. Participation, interaction, commitment of resources, and sharing the vision of change at the beginning and during implementation, all indicate leadership commitment to change. In fact, it is the performance of leaders and managers that has the main impact on employees and people, not their words. So accountability and responsibility must appear in the behavior and continuous performance of managers to show their commitment and create the necessary trust.

3. Engaging stakeholders

In the first step, change leaders must identify the stakeholders of this change, including all the people on whom this change has an effect, or those who can affect the change process. For this, it is necessary to analyze the stakeholders. In the next step, they must take appropriate measures based on the situation and the authority of the stakeholders and whether they agree or disagree with this change in order to inform or convince each stakeholder.

4. Tools and skills

In his book “Good to Great“, Jim Collins says: The difference between good and great leaders is that great leaders practice the principles consistently and very well.

To lead organizational change effectively, the principles related to this matter must be well-identified and conducted in the best possible way. The basic principles of leading change are: creating and sharing a common vision, accountability and responsibility as a leader, and comprehensive and effective stakeholder engagement.

Furthermore, effective communication skills are one of the most important prerequisites for leading change. This skill should be used well from the beginning to the end of the organizational change process, and effective communication must be conducted between the leader and other people.

Moreover, other helpful tools in this process can be stakeholder management planning tools and many others, but what is particularly important is the diagnosis and effective use of appropriate tools in each step by the change leader.

5. Adopting appropriate behavior

In fact, organizational change occurs at behavioral levels. Changing the organization’s divisions by itself cannot lead to fundamental changes in the organization. Rather, it is necessary to change the infrastructure of the organization, such as job descriptions, performance management programs, measurement standards, etc., to stabilize the change process. We must realize that people react differently to these changes. In the path of conducting these transformations, it is necessary to guide people and give them the opportunity to receive the necessary advice. The role of change leader in this field is also important. Things like celebrating small successes in the organizational change process, giving appropriate and timely feedback to people, and reminding people of the common ideal and the importance of each person in achieving it can help a lot to motivate and guide effective people in the change process.

6. Measures and processes

The last parameter, which is also very important, is how to measure the success and progress of the process at each step. There must be standards that can measure how the process is conducted, the performance of employees, the financial performance of the organization, as well as the quality of the change leadership. In fact, the success or failure of a change must be measured using appropriate standards and measures, and necessary measures must be taken for improvement at each step.

Ensure the success of change in your organization

The most important reasons for failure in organizational change

After examining hundreds of companies over the years in terms of organizational change, John P. Kotter concluded that most organizational changes fail for eight common reasons. In the following, we will discuss eight reasons for failure in organizational change.

Main reasons for organizational change failure

1. Not Establishing a Great Enough Sense of Urgency

People are willing to put in extra effort and change their situation when they strongly feel the need for this change. For example, they must feel that the organization is on the verge of destruction, the company is seriously losing its market share, or the company is facing bankruptcy. In fact, they must know that the continuation of the current process will not only not improve the situation but will seriously aggravate it.

You may think that creating a feeling of need in people is a simple task. But in fact, this stage is one of the most difficult stages of organizational change. If it is not achieved correctly, it may be one of the most important reasons for failure in organizational change that lead to reducing the possibility of successful change in organizations.

2. Not Creating a Powerful Enough Guiding Coalition

Major renewal programs often start with just one or two people. In cases of successful transformation efforts, the leadership coalition grows and grows over time. For the success of a transformation program, it is always necessary to have a group of stakeholders with it and help to conduct the process well with their support and involvement of others. In this alliance, efforts must be made to involve powerful people in the organization so that they do not oppose the transformation and help to grow this alliance by using their power and the influence they can have on others.

It must be known that the existence of a coalition is not enough by itself. This group must be led in the right direction so that the change in the organization can be successfully conducted.

3. Lacking a Vision

In fact, the vision is supposed to determine the direction towards which the organization moves. If there is no common vision among people without a common goal and based on the individual perception of the need for change, they will go in different directions, so that the outcome of these actions does not lead to the necessary change but wastes people’s energy and motivation.

It should also be emphasized that the common or ideal vision must be shaped so that it makes people see it in line with their individual goals and visions and generates additional individual motivation for achieving it.

4. Undercommunicating the Vision by a Factor of Ten

The vision must be consistently and well shared with all people, one by one. People must be aware of the vision at all levels in which the organizational change will take place, and many people must believe in this vision and be reminded of it constantly.

It is not enough that only managers participate in determining the vision and that only senior and middle managers know about it. If people, at all levels of the organization, know the reason for the orders they receive, which is the vision of the organization, they will try to achieve this organizational change with additional motivation.

5. Not removing obstacles to the new vision

Certainly, there will be obstacles to achieving the vision set in the organization. These obstacles can be some existing laws. Also, part of the organizational culture may be a serious obstacle in the way of this change. In many cases, the employees or some of the stakeholders lead to the failure of change in the organization by their disruption or non-cooperation.

In these cases, the formed coalition must try to overcome these obstacles in different ways. Also, the optimal use of resources is very important in order to implement the organizational change program.

6. Not Systematically Planning for, and Creating Short-Term Wins

If there is no clear and step-by-step plan for transformation in the organization, you will not know at every moment of the process your place in the path of change and how successful the process has been so far. In fact, the step-by-step program helps you better measure the extent of performance success or failure of the process.

Since the path of organizational change is difficult and exhausting, determining small, short-term steps in the middle stages helps involved people in organizational change to find greater motivation to continue working by feeling the victory of the process.

7. Declaring Victory Too Soon

Sometimes, by achieving some short-term victories, people think that the transformations have been successfully completed and they have reached the end of the road. In fact, people’s fatigue from the steps achieved and the thrill of short-term victory can make the continuation of the transformation seem less important or sometimes lead to neglecting the continuation of the program.

In some cases, opponents of change try to exploit the exaggeration of short-term gains to create a sense of victory among the supporters of transformation as a result of this success, thus leading to stopping the transformation in the middle of the road.

8. Not Anchoring Changes in the Corporation’s Culture

In many cases, after completing the transformation steps, it is thought that the work is done, while basic measures must be taken in the culture and infrastructure of the organization in order to consolidate and institutionalize this transformation, which will lead to its sustainability in the future and its irreversibility to pre- transformation condition.

One of the influencing factors in this case is the culture of the organization. In fact, the culture of the organization must be gradually changed so that the change is officially recognized and transformed into a new routine for the organization.

Another very important thing is time. In fact, it must be ensured that enough time has passed to institutionalize the changes at different levels and different generations of individuals and employees, including older and new employees.

Change failure destroys organizations


The challenges of the change process in organizations have always been one of the main concerns of managers who are trying to improve the situation of their organization. The high rate of change failure in organizations on the one hand and the inevitability of the need for change on the other have made it very difficult to become a leading company. Many things affect the success or failure of change in the organization. We have tried in this post to mention the most important reasons for failure in organizational change.

Certainly, every change in the organization has its own complexities, according to the type of change and the organization and society that hosts this change. These complexities must be analyzed separately based on the relevant context, and necessary measures must be taken for them. However, the eight cases mentioned are the most common mistakes in the path of organizational change in the world and avoiding them increases the probability of successful change in the organization.

As a final point, we must be aware of the vision of transformation because it is the main factor in reducing errors that lead to the failure of change in organizations. Also, the role of change leadership in the organization is very important in all stages.

To measure your organization’s readiness for change, you can use the Porsline Survey Template to evaluate readiness for change based on the ADKAR model.

The evaluation of this model must be repeated periodically. Using Porsline will help you easily repeat this evaluation. If you need guidance in the process of analyzing the results of this survey in your organization, you are welcome to contact us.

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