FRENCH philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau said this about change: “There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.”

Have you experienced a failed change lately? Have you been a part of a team or an organisation that attempted something different and failed?

We have all seen attempts at change being unsuccessful. What happens to scuttle well-intentioned efforts? The following are some of the most common reasons why organisational change fails.

You can use the list for diagnostic purposes, or to prevent mistakes in future attempts at change in your organisation.

Mis-starts

A mis-start occurs when a change is ill-advised, hastily implemented or attempted without sufficient commitment. This is a leadership-credibility killer.

Making it optional

When leadership commits to a change, the message must be that the change is not an option. But the message that often comes across is, “We’d like you to change, we’re asking you to change, we implore you to change, please change...” Whenever people have the option not to change, they won’t.

Neglecting results

Leaders can get so caught up on planning and managing the process that they do not notice that no tangible results are being achieved. The activity becomes more important than the results.

Being insensitive

This stems from a belief that the end justifies any means. Organisations tend to fail miserably in this regard: they downplay or ignore the human pain of change. It is this insensitivity to people’s feelings that not only prevents the change but destroys morale and loyalty in the process.

Leaving it to outsiders

Change is an inside job. Although outside consultants might provide valuable ideas and input, people inside the systems must accept responsibility for the change. Finding scapegoats and passing the buck are not options.

Lack of communication

A great deal of resentment is aroused when management announces a change and then mandates the specifics of implementation.

Employees need to be involved in two ways. First, their input and suggestions should be solicited when planning the change. Secondly, after a change has been committed to, they should be involved in determining the means. Leadership needs to communicate, “Here is what must happen. How do you think it can best be done?”

No new rewards

If you keep rewarding employees for what they have always done, you will keep getting what you have always got.

Make sure that rewards, recognition and compensation are adjusted for the desired change.

No commitment

For change to happen, everybody involved must buy in. Leadership, however, must take the first steps. Change is aborted whenever leadership does not demonstrate the same commitment they expect from others.

Wrong fit

In this instance, the change is too massive to be achievable or too small to be significant. Like a good goal, a change program should be neither too easy nor too impossible.

No follow-through

The best planning is worthless if not implemented, monitored and carried out. Responsibility must be clearly defined for making sure that follow-through is timely and intense.