Why Most Change Initiatives Fail (and how to ensure yours doesn’t!)

Research would suggest that 70% of organizational change initiatives fail. It’s not that everything about the change is a failure, but the reality is, most strategies for change fail to achieve even a fraction of the positive outcomes they originally promise.

Why is that?

One of the main reasons is the way the change is communicated.

Leaders and managers talk about why everything about our current reality is broken and horrible:

  • “We’re no longer relevant!”
  • “We’re missing out on huge opportunities!”
  • “We’re becoming boring and stagnant!”

Then, they talk about why this change is going to solve ALL these problems and be the path to a brighter future:

  • “We’re going to be relevant and responsive!”
  • “We’re going to take advantage of exciting opportunities!”
  • “We’re going to make sure we don’t get left behind!”

What’s interesting is that although this might be true, the story is incomplete. And you can be confident that the other side of the story is what most of your employees are focused on:

They talk to one another about how not everything is broken, and in fact, there are current things that are working quite well:

  • “We’ve got to maintain product and service quality!”
  • “We need to preserve our reputation and be confident!”
  • “We’ve got to make sure we don’t lose sight of our core values and best practices!”

Beyond this, they know what happens when we’re all about the “exciting new thing” or the “shiny new object” – and neglect stability and tradition:

  • “We’re going to lose sight of what we are known for!”
  • “We’re going to live in a state of chaos and confusion!”
  • “We’re going to make bad decisions that have long-term impact!”

So, does this mean that as leaders you stop trying to lead change, and stop trying to move your teams and organizations forward? No! It means that the best way to overcome resistance to change and see your change initiatives succeed, is to find healthy tension between change AND stability.

Talk about all the benefits and opportunities that can come from change, AND at the same time, affirm what’s already working, and talk about how you plan to hold on to those things at all costs.

Let your team know that you understand that change is hard and provide realistic strategies to soften the learning curve and avoid chaos and confusion.

Think about these past few months. Have you put effort into staying relevant and embracing change and innovation? At the same time, have you been deliberate in holding on to what matters and maintaining a culture of consistency and stability?

I bet if you’re honest you’ll find yourself in one of these 4 quadrants:

change and stability chart

Regardless of what quadrant you currently find yourself in, your goal is to stay, or spend more time in, quadrant four. To be current AND confident.

Remember, leveraging the tension between change and stability doesn’t happen by chance, it happens by choice. And when you choose to hold change and stability in healthy tension, your organization gains a massive competitive advantage.


Team Activity

Engage your team in this conversation so that together, you are aligned and committed to embracing change and innovation while at the same time, holding onto tradition and stability.

  • Start by having them read this article.
  • Next, work through these 3 worksheets at your next meeting or event. This can be done in person or virtually.
  •  Begin to tap into the power of healthy tension and start to see your change initiatives succeed!

Good luck and have fun!

Tim Arnold

Invest in your leadership success.

Get exclusive access to a monthly Leadership Quick Tip & DIY Team activity, directly from Tim Arnold.