Change Management- Only 30% make it

In business applications class, we studied the glorious examples of the airline “Southwest” and the retailer “Seven-Eleven-Japan” with regards to change management. Both enterprises had perfectly figured out what their weaknesses were and what needed to be done to improve them in order to maintain competitiveness. AND they had successfully carried out the changes.

Great!- That is a real good example of everyday change management you can find in enterprises where the managers found out that they want to execute a change program, right?

No, actually SUCCESSFUL Change Management is not that easy. For sure, it is not “usual” that a company really succeeds in reaching their predefined goals. In fact, 70% of change strategies within organizations fail to provide the desired outcome! This really shocked me and made me pose the question: “Why do nearly three-fourth of all enterprises fail in change management?” And even more important: “What can I do to avoid failure?”

Top 3 reasons for failure:

  1.  Gap between strategic vision and successful program implementation
  2.  Lack of a change management model and necessary supporting tools and skills
  3. Failure to take all impacts on all parties involved into account


In general, there is a complex psychology as the reason for why people behave in a certain way. According to Gary Johnston you have to understand your employees beliefs & values of every employee to drive your change. “The development of a change program, the extent of the change, your relationship with your people and HOW you explain the requirement for change will all impact on the response and effectiveness of your change plan.”

Consequently, if you do not understand your employees, you will not be able to find the suitable procedures for your planned changes, nor will you be able to communicate the plan in such a way, so that everyone sees the necessity to change AND really accepts the concepts for him or herself. Only like this, all workers of all ranks will give their best to drive the change.


Just imagine, you receive a hastily prepared and superficial email presenting a change plan. – Would you take it seriously? I guess not!

So, it is essential to communicate your goals in an appropriate framework. As already mentioned before, you have to understand your employees and act according to this: If you really  want them to drive the change, go for it and discuss the plan with them. The best would definitely be that they can identify with the aims and the tools planned to reach them. However, at least you have to make sure your employees will accept the change plan and know of its importance.

What is needed is clarity, a language and a contextual framework to articulate and manage your necessary processes!

Program VS Project management

When I was researching around, I found a truly interesting blogpost focusing on the difference between these two types of management for driving a change. Whereas project management has a definite start and finish point and the aim of a delivery of an output, program management takes in the bigger picture: It considers general business benefits in line with your vision and it is settled over a longer period of time.

The author claims that it is necessary for senior management to follow the program management approach rather than the project management one. According to him, senior management has to “take a holistic and structured look at the wider factors that need to be addressed- and that are often ‘mission critical’.” Change management –if it should be successful- must not focus on the “getting it done bit” ,but it also needs to be more like a multi- faceted approach taking impact on more levels into account.

For march 2009, there have been 450,00 searches on google for project management and only 39,200 searches for program (or programme) management.

If we hold this bloggers theory to be true and we assume one can see from google search numbers how relevant and important topics are, you can definitely find an answer why so many companies failed in change management.

It is not everything about planning the change, but also about surviving it!


Having digged in different sources and having reconstructed the different points of view on reasons for failure, I would definitely say that the most of these cases were based on neglecting the holistic perspective, respectively not taking into account the bigger picture. Often, enterprises focus too much on the “getting it done bit”. As a consequence, I do share the last bloggers opinion and would recommend everyone wanting to benefit from change management to develop and implement your changes with the method of program management.

…What about you? What do you think?

For further information and articles, check this out:

Blog about change management