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Why transformation efforts fail

Updated: Mar 21

Leading Change: Why Transformation Efforts fail.

Organisational changes are usually initiated when a company begins to survey its competitiveness and financial results in the light of market and technological trends. The 8-Step model by Kotter (1988) in "Leading Change" was based on analysis of why companies efforts to impliment change fail and provides a critical framework over overcome change management difficulties. Appelbaum (2012) surveyed the research literature on the empirical implimentation of Kotter's model, finding that although not all case studies utilised all of the recommended steps, Kotter remained a valid management tool.

Kotter found that a shared vision is critical to transformational success. Creating a strong team who have internalised this vision and can communicate it to the wider organisation is critical to its success. Without this vision, the reasons for, and direction of, change can become unfocused, leading to demoralisation and resistance amongst staff.

Utilising communication channels to articulate the vision to staff and actively seeking their involvement in its implementation can overcome these twin difficulties. Appelbaum (2017) found that increased communication and the visibility of change leaders were critical in transformative success.

There is also a risk that businesses can play too safely. If the urgency is not sufficiently communicated, the transformation process may drift and the long-term future of the organisation be put at risk. Until the change is embedded in the culture of a company, which can take up to five to ten years, new approaches are fragile and prone to regression.

Barnes (2018) emphasised the importance of decentralising the responsibility for change and diffusing it across the company.

Real transformation takes time and change processes can lose momentum if there are no short-term goals to achieve and celebrate. Identifying clear victories in the first year or two of a change can help convince doubters that the change will be worth all the upheaval.

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