One of the world's foremost experts on
business leadership, John P. Kotter from the Harvard Business School, identified
the eight most common reasons business transformation efforts fail. He
identifies them as:
too much complacency. A common error is not creating a sense of urgency early on in the project.
Projects with a high level of complacency are almost certainly doomed to
to create a sufficiently powerful guiding coalition We all know how important it is for a project to be led by someone with
energy and commitment. This is seldom enough to see a major change effort
through. What is needed is a coalition of corporate leaders capable of
overcoming all inertia and opposition that will almost certainly arrive.3.
the power of vision
Vision plays an important role in change efforts by helping to direct,
align and inspire actions on the part of large numbers of people.
the vision by a power of 10 (or 100, or 1,000)
People will not commit to a change effort unless they believe that real
benefits will result from the change, and that the required change is
achievable. Without effective communication, how will they ever have
sufficient information on which to reach this conclusion?
Obstacles to block the new vision
Most change efforts will at some time come upon obstacles (whether perceived
or actual). If they are not anticipated or quickly removed, they can
easily provide a reason for staff to slip back into their old comfort
to create short term wins
Many transformations take years to achieve and people will become dispirited
if they do not see some concrete signs of progress.
Victory too soon
Major changes take time to 'bed down'. Declaring victory after
'implementation' will lose credibility if teething problems occur with the
new situation - which is almost inevitable.
to anchor changes firmly in the corporate culture
Once the changes are in, there is a temptation to dust of your hands and
walk away. However, it is easy for old habits, and old processes, to
return and undo all the good work. It is necessary to keep a watchful eye
to ensure the processes become second nature.
Adapted with permission from Leading Change by
John P. Kotter, Harvard School Press 1996 ISBN # 0-87584-747-1
Knowing why these organizational transformation
projects fail is just the start. What do we do about it? See the next
item, the eight stage change process.