5 Warning Signs of Unsuccessful Change Initiatives

October 1st, 2020/ 0 comments/ andreapetrone

How many times did you face a change in your organization? I won’t be surprised if you have been involved in many changes.

Change is inevitable. The context keeps changing. Globalized economy, market uncertainty, industry crisis, digitalization, innovation, pandemics, you name it.

All these things are forcing us and our organizations to move, change, adapt. And fast.

The real question is not whether to change or not. The question is how to embrace change successfully. That’s the only thing that matters.

As a past corporate executive and now executive coach, I have been involved in a number of change initiatives. Often with poor outcomes.

Here are the staggering data. 70% of change initiatives (including digital transformation) fail.

I had the pleasure to be the closing keynote speaker at the last Go Digital Middle East Virtual Summit and I presented my findings and 5 dangerous signs of unsuccessful change initiatives. Let’s have a look:

  • Leaders go first

Every major change in an organization starts from the top. Leaders shape their organizations and it’s their responsibility to make it happen.

But a CEO can’t do much on his own. He has to build a dedicated team who can turn an idea into an outcome. Diversity in building a great team is critical too. You want to have different experiences, roles, stories in that team. It doesn’t need to be only a C-suite thing.

Not everyone is a good fit. You want to make sure each team member is aligned, ready to act, has a great sense of urgency, and has a high level of trust, authority, and influence within the whole organization.

  • Assess readiness and anticipate resistance

This is a big thing. I have seen this so many times. Many organizations launch big initiatives, in particular on digital or technology, without assessing how ready is the organization to embrace these changes.

Not just that. By far, resistance is the main reason for failures. Every organization has resistance internally. That’s ok. The key, though, is how to anticipate and fight resistance at the early stages and not when it’s too late.

My recommendation is to have full clarity on where the resistance lies, what objections will arise, and how to prevent that. And when this is not enough, you have to isolate resistance before it’s too late.

  • Strong vision

This is another common challenge when it comes to change initiatives. I often see projects start with a blurred vision. In the beginning, there is energy, motivation, momentum, pace. But not always a clear vision and objectives.

All of the change initiatives must have a clear outcome. Without that, the sense of urgency will be lost, employees will be disengaged at some point, momentum will be gone, and other competing priorities will take place instead.

Also, a blurred vision leads to a poor strategy which preludes to failure.

  • Process

Without a clear and structured process, changes won’t happen.

Setting a robust and successful process is critical for implementing change. The process is not something you can do later on. You have to engineer the change initiative, so you avoid nasty surprises, unexpected delays or roadblocks, issues.

I really recommend taking the time to build a process before executing any big initiative. The process is not only a set of technicalities. It’s more about vision, strategy, communication, build the right team, track progress, and more. If you are struggling, hire a facilitator or coach who could help to set up the right way.

  • Early wins

One of the other main reasons why implementation of change doesn’t happen is because employees are not motivated and committed enough.

This could happen in any scenario, but, in my experience, it’s particularly true for those projects that take long to materialize tangible outcomes on the business.

If they don’t see results, employees will start thinking of why they are investing so much time and effort into these initiatives. Other reasons are a lack of rewards and incentives or fear to lose their status or job.

This should be addressed in the early stages. Plan to secure early wins during the whole process and celebrate early success so you keep employees engaged and the momentum going.


There is more, but I believe these 5 principles if addressed and implemented in your organization, can have already a significant impact on your outcomes.

In the next articles, we’ll go a bit deeper on some of these principles and also will tell you how to make these changes stick.

Socrates said: “The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new”.

Do you agree?



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