Why do so many change management initiatives fail?


Came across this piece from Forrester looking at why so many change management initiatives fail.


I would highly recommend reading the Managing Transition essay by William Bridges. If a business transformation or change project was on the agenda I sense Bridges 3 phases of transition (Ending, Neutral Zone and the New Beginning) would well within most organisations, particularly some of the proposed early adopters. .

3 phases of Transition

Transition is split in three phases, which overlap. Ending, Neutral Zone, and the New Beginning.

These 3 phases are not sequential and at one given time, departments (generally this wouldn’t work well with communities) may be in more than one phase. This depends on how advanced different teams are in the process of transition. Some may already starting the new beginning while others are in the Neutral Zone for instance.

It is not a problem for the department to be in a mix state in terms of transition phases just as long as leaders have a clear understanding of who is at what stage.


·         Understand and accept with empathy that teams will lose many things

·         Give people didn’t have the chance to express their loss

·         Identify what people will lose according to their role, team position etc …

·         Understand what it means for the people and clearly communicate this understanding

·         Identify ways to compensate for people loss

·         Communicate on a regular basis.

·         Clearly communicate on what is over and why it is necessary for the organisation strategy

·         Do not denigrate the previous situation

Neutral Zone

·         Productivity might go down

·         People may feel overwhelmed and anxious

·         People may get polarized

·         Recommendations during that phase :

Openly communicate around the unstable nature of this phase

·         Build a Transition Monitoring Team.

·         Encourage experimentation

·         Ensure failures are not punished

·         Train the teams so they can feel more comfortable with the change.


·         4 P : Purpose, Picture, Plan et Part.

o    The Purpose is the answer to the question of the departments justification.

o    The Picture is critical to illustrate in a clear and straight-forward way the vision behind the change. It contributes to a much faster acceptation and change ownership process of by the teams.

o    The Plan shows that leaders have been thing about the transition process

o    The Part : involve as many people as possible to that they engage with the change process. Communication must concentrate on selling the problem.

·         Be consistent. Sending conflicting messages during the Beginning phase is the best way to foster confusion and to stay in Neutral Zone.

·         Look for quick wins : it is very important for the change initiative to get early in the project some quick wins, from small tasks..

·         Symbolize the new cultural identity. With methods, processes, visuals etc … that gives a physical and visible aspect to the change.

·         Celebrate success. Just like we need to spend time and acknowledge the loss (Endings) it is critical to celebrate results of what’s starting



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