Change is hard — the evidence

Change is hardDoing change is hard; doing change successfully is very hard. Am I sure the situation is that bad?


A survey by Prosci* carried out in 2011 and published last year showed that:

  • 35% of change projects only partially or completely met their objectives
  • Just over 50% completed behind schedule
  • 30% completed over budget
  • 66% of participants rated their organisation poor or fair in meeting change objectives, only 34% rated themselves good or excellent.

Let’€™s think about what this might mean in more traditional areas of management.

Imagine your Human Resources team reporting that 35% of the employees they have hired are underperforming against objectives.

Imagine IT admitting that 35% of the computers they have set up don’t work properly and this is affecting the ability of people to do their job.

What would happen if Finance reported 35% of invoices sent to customers had errors, or that they failed to balance the books 50% of the time?

Suppose the Purchasing department admitted that 35% of the goods purchased were not fit for purpose.

If Sales reported that 35% of the orders they submitted had errors which upset customers what would happen?

You get the picture, not only would you expect senior managers to lose their jobs you would expect significant effort to improve the situation. The Chief Executive or Managing Director would be on the case and resources would be piled in. The organisation would not survive long with these levels of performance.

Yet, the problem with change persists in most organisations (some are very good and are doing successful change consistently. so it can be done). Organisations go through change so that they can develop new capabilities, new cultures, and new operational behaviours which will enable them to survive and thrive in a changing world. Change is fundamental to the survival of any organisation given that the world around us is changing.

Organisations that don’€™t change don’€™t survive, there is evidence of that: HMV, Jessops, Comet, Woolworths, Kodak are all recent or notable examples and all described by the pundits as unable to change in their chosen business.

Why is change not taken seriously in most organisations? Do they find it just too hard to even contemplate successful change? There must be some reason why change is rarely represented at board level. Is there a Chief Change Officer in your organisation?

Follow this blog to discover what you can do to improve the success rate of change in your organisation.

*Best Practices in Change Management, Prosci Benchmarking Report, 2012

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