Are Your Transformational Change Projects Successful?
Nod your head if you have ever heard, seen or (heaven forbid), quoted this statistic: “70% of change efforts fail.”
You nodded, right? Let’s face it; the 70% failure statistic is dramatic. It builds the case for hiring experienced change practitioners. It cautions implementers to learn about change management practices and integrate them into their tactical tasks.
Unfortunately, it’s a made-up number. Back in the 90s, Michael Hammer speculated about the success rate of re-engineering projects and since then, authors and speakers have cited 70% as the failure rate for all types of change programs. Several change practitioners have dug into the change archives and vigorously refuted it. (See here, here and here.) Yet, it persists.
Even if no one had refuted the number, I stopped believing it years ago. As a measurement practitioner, I have found that:
- Few organizations are disciplined or adept at identifying measures of success at the outset of their projects;
- The data to measure success is often difficult to collect;
- The evidence of success can rarely be attributed solely to the change effort;
- Leaders move the finish line or unexpected circumstances cause it to move;
- The initial sponsor leaves and her replacement does not revisit the measures.
Given all this evidence against it, how can anyone state with such certainty that 70% of change projects fail?