7 Barriers to the Success of Change Initiatives

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It’s not unusual for leaders to approve a change initiative as a means to create a brand-defining customer experience that, in turn, will contribute to a company’s growth. But 70 percent of change initiatives fail for a number of different reasons, says Gallup, an organization that provides analytics and advice to help organizations solve problems. For instance, a project’s change manager may lack a history of spearheading reform. Then again, a company’s leadership may approve a time frame that’s unreasonable in light of a project’s objectives.

To successfully conduct a change project, both company and project leaders must anticipate and address these and other issues that cause initiatives to fail. Here are seven such barriers to a change initiative’s success.

#1. Lack of senior executive support for the change initiative.

If a company’s leaders doubt an initiative will have a positive impact on their organization, their skepticism can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. For without leadership support, it’s doubtful a company’s culture will come to reflect the change. It’s equally doubtful the change will influence a company’s strategy, business negotiations, or problem-solving processes.

To address this barrier to success, a company’s leaders must consistently and continually convey the significance of a change initiative to managers and other stakeholders. The focus of these conversations should be the initiative’s purpose, as well as its project milestones and intended outcomes. Also, the messages should reflect the findings of employee surveys regarding the initiative, and the challenges and opportunities it presents to employees.

#2. Limited leadership support for the renewal or revision of a change initiative.

When leaders offer insufficient support for a change initiative’s renewal or improvement, they practically guarantee its failure. Addressing this issue requires leaders, managers, and supervisors to take every opportunity to discuss the renewal or revision of the change initiative with other employees. For instance, leaders might discuss the change project during board or team meetings, as policies and procedures are developed or revised, and during employee training classes. As the initiative receives attention,  employees will recognize the importance of supporting it and begin to accept that it will take place.

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#3. Scanty budget and inadequate time to achieve the change process objectives.

The failure to allot needed resources to a change project ensures the initiative’s failure.

To best address this obstacle to success, leaders must create a feasible budget and commit adequate financial, human, and inadequate budget for change managementoperational resources to the project. Also, as the project progresses, resource requirements should be evaluated at regular intervals. If it appears additional resources are needed, leaders should make them available.

#4. Failure to integrate the change initiative into all related operations and processes.

A company may integrate a change process with some but not all operations, processes, practices, or additional ongoing improvements. In addition, a site may prevent a change from taking place.

Leaders may deal with these challenges by creating a pilot program that’s implemented, evaluated, and revised at a particular number of sites or for a limited number of operations, processes, and practices. As the selected business units successfully complete the change initiative, they should share their positive results with the units that are reluctant to become involved with the change process.

#5. The inefficient delegation of responsibilities by leadership.

The failure of a leadership team to embrace employee empowerment, engage in participative decision making, or encourage equal or prompt sharing of information with all employees will serve as a major obstacle to a change initiative’s success. Lacking information or personal empowerment, employees will refuse to support a change effort. In addition, it’s unlikely personnel will volunteer to either test the change or share good news about the change process outcomes.

To create a groundswell of support for a change initiative, leaders should initiate the redesign of business processes, including policies, procedures, and business rules that relate to the change. In addition, change is driven by processes, which leaders can make more efficient by providing technological support. Also, leaders should delegate the development and implementation of new processes and technology to the appropriate personnel.

#6. Too little employee involvement in the change effort.

A leadership team that fails to encourage significant employee participation in a change effort will dampen employee enthusiasm for the initiative. In turn, employees will recognize their token involvement for what it is and withhold support that would employee engagement and feedbackcontribute to the project’s success.

Leaders might directly involve employees in a change effort by surveying employees to gain ideas about the change process. Once the employee responses are collected, leaders should share survey results, and when appropriate, implement employee suggestions. To do otherwise, risks employee complaints and resistance to the change process.

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#7. No effort by leaders to inform employees of the change project’s goals and anticipated outcomes.

The failure of company leadership to inform employees of an upcoming change project and its objectives and intended outcomes will serve as a barrier to project success. Consequently, leaders should seek employee involvement early in the project’s life cycle. For instance, leaders should share information about the change initiative, such as its status, team accomplishments, and project issues. Doing so, allows employees to share first-hand knowledge that could smooth the project’s processes. In addition, engaging employees makes it more likely that employees will volunteer their time to the project or embrace the change project.

Few projects accomplish their objectives without a project team encountering some difficulties along the way. Although some barriers to a change initiative can appear daunting, knowledge of their existence makes it possible to devise strategies to deal with them promptly and effectively.

Sam Schutte
Sam Schutte

Sam is the founder of Unstoppable Software, and has his hands in all aspects of its operations and growth. He loves architecting software solutions to fit a specific business need and helping CIOs and other technology managers figure out their software development strategies.

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