In Informal Coalitions, I mentioned the oft-quoted statistic that upwards of two-thirds of planned change programmes end in failure. In this case, I used Breaking the Code of Change, edited in 2000 by HBS professors Michael Beer and Nitin Nohria, as the source of the claim.
No doubt we could have a long debate about what “failure” actually means in relation to organizational change. We might also want to challenge the idea that it’s possible to attribute a particular outcome (in this case a less-than-successful one) to a specific change intervention. The wiggliness of real-world organization make this a very dubious claim. Nevertheless, few managers would argue with the view that formal change programmes are regularly accompanied by a sense of disappointment, dissatisfaction and under-achievement.
Curiously though, despite this widespread agreement amongst practitioners, it is virtually impossible to find a change-consultancy’s website, leadership development programme, or book on ‘change management’ that doesn’t claim that its own prescription and/or approach to change offers a sure-fire route to success.
Surely, both of these conditions can’t be right!
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