Why change programmes often fail

By Phillip Cooke

We know that change, more than ever, is the norm; it is constant and likely to remain so as digital and social pressures continue apace. It is thus hardly surprising that organisations have to consider change to be an almost permanent agenda item, and the fall-out from Covid-19 will ensure that this remains the case.

As I wrote in the last blog, the home-working conundrum will be with us for some time and this represents a significant change for both organisations and individuals. The sustainability agenda, changing customer expectations, innovation in technology and manufacturing, new distribution patterns and agile working are all demanding change. Many organisations are stepping-up to these challenges, with badged initiatives and cascaded programmes. Yet many such time consuming and expensive programmes fail to achieve the desired results.

At D’Arcy we understand that organisations don’t change; people do, one by one, and when a critical mass of people change so does the organisation. But what do we really mean when we use the word change? I would suggest that, in most cases, the organisation wants and needs behaviours to change. This is where the large scale, badged initiative often fails. Why?

Because behaviours are personal and they result from mindsets, which are perceptions grounded in past experience and conditioning. So, if we want to get that critical mass of individual change, we need to understand what it is that drives behaviours in each individual and team – and that takes time, commitment from the top of the organisation, first rate coaching and patience; how else do we really expect to shift mindsets and change embedded habits?

Only when we do this will organisational change programmes assume relevance to every individual – without this many will hear the message but never get beyond, “too difficult, mate, and what’s that got to do with me?”