How to implement organisational change that sticks.

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Change within any business is notoriously hard to implement.  It is believed that as much as 70% - 80% of all change programmes fail.  Knowing why and what you can do to minimise the chances of your change management programme increases your chances of making improvements.

When change programmes are reviewed, especially those that have failed, the reasons for the failure may often be attributed to things like poor technical planning, tools or timing.  Often however, the reasons could be far simpler.  So often change programmes neglect the most important part of the process – the people are implementing the change.


Making change stick

Change initiatives will sometimes fail at significant cost to the host organisation. By undertaking a small degree of preparation this can be avoided.

Expensive relaunching of initiatives with the additional costs of time and money can be avoided if we develop a plan to get people on board with the change.

Change in any organisation is inevitable so it’s better to understand when we need to engage more strongly with the employees.

Before embarking or even finalising a change process plan step back for a minute and consider the following questions:  

1. Is there ownership of the process or system by the individuals?

Are the people involved in undertaking the process or system familiar and experienced with the approach. Have they become habituated and accustomed to process or system. If the answer is yes they have almost certainly taken ownership of it, even if they do not like or enjoy it. And consequentially to move them away from it will require a significant amount of effort and persuasion to achieve.

2. Was the process or system developed or refined by the individuals?

Did the people who are currently engaged in the process or system have any input or involvement in changing it, refining it, varying it, improving it or any action which led to some aspect of it altering? If they did then they are likely to resist any modification to it. And a people change process plan will be necessary.

3. Do the individuals have a mid to long term involvement with the process or system?

Commitment to a process is often associated with duration of time the individual has been involved with it and the time it takes to become reasonably competent in it. The time in some cases to learn and become reasonably affective can be measured in days. People, once they grasp or learn something quickly become comfortable and familiar with it and will be reluctant to let it go.

4. From the individual's perspective is the process or system satisfactory?

For the organisations perspective the process or system that requires change may be unsatisfactory, unreliable or simple inadequate. But from the perspective of the operator of the system or process it may be experienced as fit for purpose and appropriate. Where this is the case change will be challenging for these people and will need to be managed and planned.

5. Has a previous attempt to change the process or system failed?

In some cases a previous attempt to change a process or system may have failed and for any number of reasons. In such circumstances if the people who experienced this attempt are still in situ then this can lead to them being additionally resistant to a second attempt at change. 

When the answer to only one of these questions is “Yes” then it will be necessary to device and implement some sort of people plan to run alongside if not ahead of any technical plans to introduce the change. If the answer to more than one of these questions is “Yes” then the effort and focus necessary to achieve commitment to the change is likely to be significantly higher.  Three “Yes’s” or more and the individuals concerned will require a concerted, planned and strategically thought through process to get them on board with the change and committed to the new processes.

The importance of leadership

Knowing how to engage and work with your teams and colleagues through a change project or process can make the difference between success and failure.  Well trained, experienced and knowledgeable managers are needed to help secure projects of the type and make sure that they are delivered.  EEF offer a range of training courses designed to support and increase the skills and knowledge of your managers.  The accredited CMI level 5 award in management and leadership has been designed to improve the abilities of middle managers across the board, but with a particular focus on change.



L&D Consultant

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