Organizational Change is Only as Difficult as You Make it


Since the very early days of understanding organizational change, experts have concluded that 70% of the companies attempting organizational change will not achieve their desired goal. That is, they fail.

Organizational Change

The reasons for failure are many, and in a recent article, which appeared in the Harvard Business Review by Nick Tasler, an organizational psychologist, author, and speaker, he concludes that much of the reason we don’t succeed is because we don’t expect to.

Change is Hard

“During nearly every discussion about organizational change, someone makes the obvious assertion that “change is hard.” On the surface, this is true: change requires effort. But the problem with this attitude, which permeates all levels of our organizations, is that it equates “hard” with “failure,” and, by doing so, it hobbles our change initiatives, which have higher success rates than we lead ourselves to believe.” Says Tasler. What he’s referring to is the research on the subject has historically pointed out that most firms, 70%, do not reach their change goals. With a number that high it’s no wonder that teams responsible for creating change initiatives start out with a negative perspective and once one little piece of the operational change equation fails they believe they are doomed and so they are; We do so often, if not always, become exactly what we believe, and so change, and life in general, becomes exactly what we expect it will become.

Start Reporting Success

The author contends that if other companies reported more success then it would set a trend for others to follow. He points to a study by McKinsey who surveyed over 1500 executives in 2013. They found that 38% reported total success, but rather than stopping there and assuming the larger percentage failed, the research noted that one third of the executives said most of their transition was successful. In fact, only 10% were total failures. “ The McKinsey results show that around 60% of change initiatives are somewhere between a base-hit and a home run, and only 1 in 10 are strikeouts.”

Change vs. Adaptation

In conclusion Nick Tasler suggest a simple modification of thinking: “Instead of pouring more gas on our burning platforms, we could remind ourselves and our teams that we have been learning new skills and adapting to new environments literally since the day we squirmed out of the womb. Every time we feel the impulse to say, “Change is hard,” we could make a different claim that is every bit as accurate: Adaptation is the rule of human existence, not the exception.” In recent years new research has also supported what Nick believes and have proven that having a positive mindset does in fact change the results. If your organization is facing a difficult transition remember that people will more readily default to a negative perspective than a positive one. Someone inside has to remind all of them that a hit is as good as a run and the game cannot be won with one swing of the bat.