The Obstacles to Great Change

Why do many change and transformation programs fail?

First of all, what do I mean by “fail”?

To fail is to:

  1. Not delivering on the outcome and the promise
  2. Making things (architecture, process, documentation, …) more complicated
  3. Providing a sub-optimal experience to your people (customers, employees, suppliers or partners)
  4. Making the next change harder to deliver
  5. Promised benefits are not fully realizable or just will not happen
  6. When leaders are unable to interject when needed to make timely decisions
  7. When the “thing” you are delivering solves one problem but creates 10
  8. When the culture does not support the change (people feel threatened, unheard, unseen, pushed to work harder, are not appreciated, not included, and no one cares)
  9. When the change was so draining and tiring that no one wants to do another one (ever again)
  10. Your talent is leaving the organization, and people are disconnected from the Why

These are 10 different ways to express failure, and as you can see, it is not a black and white

With today’s fast pace of change, we need to do change better. We can not afford any setbacks. There is no time for that. Mediocre change is not acceptable, and the cost of such change is too high:

  • Organizations lose market share and lose their customer’s loyalty
  • People are burnout and losing confidence, and as a result, their quality of life is degrading
  • The cost of the next change is higher than the one you are in (if it is not done well)
  • Customers are not being served the right way
  • We all lose faith in the ability of organizations, bodies and governments to make it work FOR US
  • And we collectively feel… unheard and unseen which has its own mental, social and health implications

So yeah.. Mediocre change has no place anymore

The Problem

This might sound like a clichรฉ, but it is the reality for so many leaders and organizations;

The problem is, we do not stop to think and design for those who matter and focus on what matters.

Simple, right? No!

This is a real problem that many organizations and leaders are facing. Conceptually some leaders know that they need to take the time to design and define a north star, but in reality, it is half-cooked. This exercise has many names, such as:

  • Strategy off-site
  • Portfolio prioritization
  • SLT team retreat (Senior Leadership Team)
  • The next 5-year plan

The problem is not with the above; the real problem is

Jumping from strategy and straight into delivery and solution-mode

What is missing?

The missing piece is to build the Bridge from where you are to where you want Before building the actual Bridge.

This can be achieved by the path to building great change

What is in the way?

The problem with running complex and large programs of work is that the team tasked to deliver on the strategy has so much weight on their shoulders. This means that the quality of the delivery is not guaranteed to be optimal.

I like to use the term “The Baggage” to describe that weight. In that baggage you will find things like:

  • Decipher the strategy
  • Navigate the culture
  • Assume a north star
  • Make up their own version of what success looks like
  • Assume what will work for others
  • Assume who the customer is and what do they need
  • Hope for the best when it comes to adopting the change
  • Coordinate the efforts between the teams “when we have the time,”… And they never have time
  • Rely on vendors and suppliers to do the right thing for the business

And more…

All of the above plus the actual delivery, which has its own complications

The Villain

If all of the above resonates, then why do we do this?

Well, because there are 3 villains in all organizations, and they cause this to happen depending on how strong they are

  • Pressure to deliver something tangible
  • The culture that may be anchored in defining the leader’s sense of worthiness in delivery and what success looks like for the star performer in the organization
  • Doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results. And this can be due to not being open to new ways, not knowing there are different ways or experiencing “new ways” failing many times that I am just going to do it my way.

There are other supporting actors to the villains, but the above is what I have seen to be the main actors.

Which ones of these are resonating?

I would love to hear your feedback and stories in the comments session below.

Updates & Announcements

I am launching a new cohort for the Emergence Group Mentoring Program explicitly designed for transformation & change leaders to help them be set up for success, become the trusted leader and have unshakable confidence. If you want more information, please reach out and I will send you the details. The cohort starts next month.

Thank you for your time

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