The high failure rate of change efforts - usually around two thirds - has motivated researchers and managers to pay increasing attention to change management. As this is a worrying statistic, several studies have been conducted since the 1990s only to find that this ratio, despite numerous efforts, persists.

ado this scenario, most approaches to change management seek to define the moment from which a manager has to prepare his organisation for the beginning of the process. John Kotter, in a classic article published in the Harvard Business Review, thus defined the first big mistake that managers make and which leads to the failure of change efforts: not establishing a sufficiently strong sense of urgency. In the same sense, a McKinsey report pointed out as a primary condition the creation of a compelling narrative about change. However, and despite the importance of knowing how to communicate the urgency and the need for change, the organisation's preparation for change does not begin with the approach of the change itself.

Contrary to what S├ęrgio Godinho's song says, today is not the first day of the rest of your life, at least when it comes to organisational change. People interpret the vision and direction of the organisation in the light of what their life and history within it has been. When people resist change, they often do so not because they are afraid of the future, because they dispute the vision, or because they are naturally resistant to any kind of change; they do so because they look at decisions made in the past and at the culture of the organisation and assume that the future will not necessarily be different (or better) than the past. In other words, they assume that there is a certain continuity in the actions and principles upheld by their leaders.

If, for example, HR practices consistently demonstrate long-term concern for employees by providing training and internal promotion opportunities and creating compensation systems around individual and team performance, and line managers translate those principles into their day-to-day behaviours, employees respond by being more willing to embrace any potential change effort. The consistency of the organisation over time overrides and cancels out the effects of uncertainty and insecurity inherent in any change effort.

Donald Keough, former CEO of Coca-Cola, once said that one of the ways you can make a business fail is precisely by spending time sending inconsistent messages to your employees. So the best way to prepare for the next change and know whether your team will buy into that effort is to assess, during a period of greater stability, the values the organisation espouses and the behaviours its leaders put in place. It is leading for change so that when the time comes, it is possible to lead the change. Anticipating the future: leading for change.

Do you know the program
Leading Organisational Change?
Published in 
 in the area of 
Leadership & People

More articles from

Leadership & People


Join Our Newsletter and Get the Latest
Posts to Your Inbox

No spam ever. Read our Privacy Policy
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.