Top 3 Reasons Why Change Initiatives Fail and How to Make Sure Yours Succeed

It’s not what you change: it’s how you change. 

Even the best initiative will fail if it’s not implemented the right way. 

Research conducted by the Harvard Business Review states that 75% of organizational change initiatives either fail outright or do not succeed in achieving desired goals.

Here are the top 3 reasons why most change initiatives fail and what companies should do instead:

#1 Poor Planning 

❌ Most organizations throw things at the wall and hope they stick. Western culture values getting things done and praises being agile. One of the reasons why you often hear fire drills and band-aid solutions at work. What usually happens is that organizations focus too much on presenting solutions as fast as possible that they dive right into the design phase of a change initiative without adequate planning. This is a recipe for failure, and it’s a waste of time and money. Change initiatives shouldn’t be trial and error.

✅ What every organization should do is invest more time in the planning stage. When I worked at Toyota, we spent 60% of our time upfront on planning. This belief system backs the idea that if you spend a little bit more time on the upfront planning, thorough development and deliberate intention, you’ll save time on the backend from mistakes.

#2 Making Change Initiatives by Department

❌ Organizations tend to operate by department. For instance, a marketing department changes something, but the fulfillment team doesn’t know about it. What can potentially happen is when the customers interact with the fulfillment department, they are annoyed and confused because the marketing department told them something completely different. Organization silos happen because we tend to make changes disparately and disjointedly. 

✅ A customer does not experience a department: a customer experiences a company. They are judging the entire company all across the board based on their interaction with the department they’re dealing with. Instead of changing processes or initiatives by individual departments,  processes should change company-wide, or what we call one-team alignment. All departments should allocate resources to change initiatives at the same time so everyone in the company is on the same page. 

Take disparate changes and level the improvements to be company-wide changes, rather than limiting each initiative to a single department. Improvements in efficiency and productivity may only be experienced and noticed minutely, but it’s the power of all the small changes that make companies work like magic.

#3 Focusing on Systems More Than People

❌ A common mistake made by organizations is focusing more on the system changes than the people that have to make and live with them. This is also the reason why people often blame tools such as CRM when the system itself is not the actual problem: the way the system is being used is what causes problems. 

✅ We want to believe that operations are like robots, but they’re not. Companies are still run by humans who are responsible for the processes. If you want a change initiative to succeed and be sustainable, your people should have the necessary training and adequate support to make that change. Aside from making sure that processes are clear and thorough, all your people should have a good understanding of how things work and clear definitions of their roles and responsibilities.


It’s how you change that gets you light years ahead of the competition. More important than what your change initiatives are is how you make them happen. Don’t forget: a well-designed change initiative starts with how well you equip the people going through that change. 

In love and respect,

Hilary Corna

Hilary Corna

Bestselling Author, Keynote Speaker, Podcast Host, Founder of the Human Way ™...

Hilary’s favorite title is HUMAN.


Leave a Reply

I am starting a revolution. One business and one person at a time.



When was the last time your inbox inspired you? Sign up today!

Thank you for subscribing!