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Change Management

70% of #ChangeManagement initiatives fail – REALLY?

Stumbled across this article the other day and had an online debate with its author, Ron Leeman, an experienced Change Leader.

To quote Ron “So now to tackle another much debated change subject … that so-called 70% failure rate. How many times have we seen LinkedIn posts/discussions talking about this subject … ”

Ron explores where the mythical 70% number came from and suggests that the problem is more related to how we measure success than anything else and goes on to explore some better ways that could be achieved.

Read Ron’s full article here: 70% of Change Management initiatives fail – REALLY? | Ron Leeman | LinkedIn

I stumbled across a similar article by Jennifer Frahm who also weighs in on the same subject and suggests that:

  • The definition of a change project is questionable.
  • The definition of “success” is questionable.
  • Success is measured at the wrong time.

Read her full article here: 70% of change projects fail?


They both make some great points that are hard to dispute. I would add to this debate that one of the key issues is people’s expectations…. whenever a change is discussed people set their own expectations, they may be positive or negative, but they exist and cause all sorts of problems to us as change leaders.

Negative expectations lead to resistance. For more on Resistance to Change see this article.

Positive expectations will become requirements in people’s minds and they will deem the change to have failed if they are not met. Whether those expectations are realistic or not is another matter!

The backbone of the Change Leader’s job is to help people set realistic expectations about an upcoming change. The communications and education must help people understand and ensure that their expectations are aligned with the projects goals. This is difficult to achieve, which is why change is hard.

So when statements like “70% of change efforts fail” are mentioned, I can well believe them, because if you ask the people impacted by the change, many will say it has failed, whereas the project team and senior management may well say it was successful! It just depends on who you ask and how good you were at setting those expectations.


Related articles:

The Vicious and Virtuous Circles of Change
What Change Management approach should I choose?
Culture: The Iceberg that sinks Organisational Change

Change Management (Part 1) – Cracking the Code of Change
Change Management (Part 2) – Step Models of Change
Change Management (Part 3a) – Change Capability
Change Management (Part 3b) – Success with IT Change
Change Management – What’s in a Name?
Why are IT projects Change Management time bombs?
The Importance of Change Leadership – Beyond “Step Models of Change”
Beer & Nohria – “Cracking the Code of Change
Lewin’s (1951) original 3-step model of “Unfreeze-Move-Refreeze”
John Kotter – “Leading Change”
Martin Webster’s blog
Change Management Blog
The five motivators of successful change by Barbara Kivowitz



  1. Pingback: Too much #ChangeManagement? | Martin Davis' Blog - November 2, 2016

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