What We are Still Getting Wrong About Change Management

O.k., I sound like a stuck record!

Anyone who knows me, knows that I go on ‘ad nauseam’ on about the need for detailed analysis of the what and the why of change management before diving into the how.

When you think about it, it’s common sense, so why on earth do we continue to focus on ‘how’ methodologies as our starting point for managing change?

When I read a recent Harvard Business Review article sharing the results of a four year study into the woefully low success rate of managing organisational change, I was both despondent and elated.

Despondent because it seems to be taking so long for the message of effective change management to get through and elated because with such a comprehensive study and findings, there is real hope that, at last, we can begin to see organisational change that really sticks.

I know that it isn’t easy for business leaders to face up to the “warts and all” reality of a detailed business diagnostic before beginning a change programme, but it is better than investing time, energy and money into an ill-conceived change programme.

Another disincentive for focusing on what and why before how is the amount of time it can take.  It seems counter-intuitive, especially when we stress the need for agility and urgency in such dynamic and complex markets, but again I say –  it’s better to take time over the what and why now rather than deal with the consequences of not having done this, later.

We know that when change programmes fail, organisations can end up back at ‘square one’ or worse off than where they started.

So now that this research confirms what we have all known for so long, isn’t it time for us to change our approach (no pun intended)?  Let’s get clear about what and why we need to change – the how will then emerge and the results will be far more impactful and long lasting.

To read more about the Harvard study follow this link.


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