Change Management Seventy per Cent failure rate: Tech Failure or Human Malfunction?

A few weeks days ago Rachel Happe and I were having a bit of a Twitter meme, following on the wonderful work The Community Roundtable did with its stunning “2015 Community Manager Attributes” graphic. I raised the following question: “Is the well known change management seventy per cent failure rate due to technology failure or human malfunction?”

Rachel’s reply was very insightful:  Human. We are much harder to change than the technology. fully supporting Clay Shirky’s statement from his book: ”Here Comes Everybody: ‘[Change] does not happen when society adopts new tools, it happens when society [businesses] adopt new behaviors.'”


So why is it so difficult for us to change? Why is this seventy per cent failure rate as high in such an abundant world we are enjoying? How can we fail with a 24/7 ubiquitous internet access?

Is not it surprising that intelligent human beings (one would think) are so often incapable of overcoming basic conflicts and difficulties as they occur? I’ve often asked myself: What are the core issues or basic challenges the workforce faces in its daily environment?

5 human difficulties emerge when Change Managers are at work:

—Conflicting objectives

—Conflicting priorities

—Human Communication


—Unshared vision

There is one common word in all these five main areas of difficulty: “conflict.” We will narrow the conflict search in Wikipedia to: conflict within processes:

Conflict refers to some form of friction, disagreement, or discord arising within a group when the beliefs or actions of one or more members of the group are either resisted by or unacceptable to one or more members of another group.


Doesn’t this remind us of company silos such as Controlling vs. Sales, Sales vs. Production or even Sales vs. Marketing? If Sales, Marketing and Production do not share a higher vision than “share holder profit” it will remain extremely difficult to tear down the “Internal Business Berlin Walls” so many corporations have on display.

So in other words, communities are not built because of technology but thanks to the people that put them together!

Reviewing The Community Roundtable summary of skills under the “Engagement” heading, one would agree that the ten points suggested could very well be relating to “conflicting objectives and priorities” as well as “human communication.”

Conflicting objectives and priorities

“Behavior change and gamification

Empathy and member support

Listening and analyzing

Moderation & conflict facilitation

Promoting productive behaviors” (Credit: The Community Roundtable)

Human Communication

“Facilitating connections

Listening and analyzing

New member recruitment

New member welcoming

Response and escalation” (Credit: The Community Roundtable)

I earnestly believe that a transcendent vision, placed above product, shareholder value and business earnings ought to be addressed, defined and ratified! An organization has to identify itself with a vision that will become the glue that holds everything and everyone together.

“Unshared vision” and “politics” will never be overcome with a business plan or an Excel table! Could you imagine if Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. when addressing the crowd in his famous speech “I have a dream” had  replaced it with “I have a to-do-list”? Ludicrous right? This is however what many organizations are doing! In this upcoming series we will look at the fundamental need for upper-management to define a vision that should be shared by the core of the workforce and the organization’s values by which employees should be hired.

We will look at why it is so crucial for organizations to define a clear company vision that goes beyond the cliches we often hear when asking the question: How would you define your organization’s vision in less than 25 words?




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