Ten ways to prevent change project failure

A Top Ten Ideas Blog

A Top Ten Ideas Blog

Here are my top ten reasons for change project failure.

These are in no particular order.

I hope that you will recognise some of these in your own organisations. If not, try asking your colleagues to take a look at this list and ask them which of these they see within the organisation.

You never know, the debate that follows may lead you to some improvements in how you implement change.

Here they are:

  1. Top down business system design – CEO’s cannot understand why their organisations do not wholeheartedly embrace their change ideas.
  2. Constantly changing priorities – Ideas driven senior managers giving their teams so many things to think about that none of the previous (good) ideas find time to be implemented.
  3. Dogged adherence to a rigid and over specified plan – i.e. Three years plans specified in step by step detail from the outset. Halfway through the project we notice that business needs have moved on.
  4. Hierarchical command and control structures. – Failure to recognise that middle managers are the ones getting stuff done. Give them time, trust and space.
  5. Strategic IT objectives led by technology availability instead of customer needs. – We bought a new software package, now what can we do with it?
  6. Inadequate levels of training, confidence and systems knowledge among operations staff – Not knowing what the existing system is capable of is not really a good excuse for buying a new one.
  7. Automation of existing (and inadequate) business processes, overlooking the opportunity to change them before / during the project. – i.e. Taking a paper based process and forcing it into a case management system – anyone remember online PDF forms?
  8. Fragmented systems for common functions across different departments and hierarchies. – It starts with CEO’s who are given a superior back office support service compared to the everyday member of staff. It results in an inability to produce meaningful or complete management information across the organisation.
  9.  Failure to look for obvious efficiency gains. This is about Old Ways of Working v’s New ways of Working. – Have you explored flexible working, shift patterns, incentive programmes and performance management as options before you change the fundamental systems you use?
  10. Outsourced suppliers with overly complex and rigidly applied SLA’s. – Short term cost savings at the start of a contract lull us into a false sense of security about the future. Failure to negotiate flexibility into the later years of a contract comes back to haunt us.

My feelings about this list have changed over time, some items come and others go. but this set is always at the core of my change management experience.

Have a great week.


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About the Author: Adam Blackie is a professional Interim Manager who leads service delivery teams through their change programmes. He works with CEO’s and their Boards in the UK to change the way technology is used by staff and their customers.


About Adam Blackie

A career Freelance Accountant who specialises in leading helping others to hold onto their money.
This entry was posted in change management, communication, customer service, Implementing Change, leading change, leading change management, stakeholder management and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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