You would have be either living under a rock or on Mars with no Wi-Fi to claim any ignorance of world events over the last year. It seems several times a day news feeds are reporting on one failure or another. I understand that the majority of news is filtered to a degree and is somewhat sensationalized to capture our fleeting attention spans. Yet, despite all the hype and horror I find myself asking this question;

Do change management initiatives really work?

On the surface this may seem somewhat like a disconnect. For I can imagine that the majority of people would not equate world events with change management systems. However, from my perspective, it seems that to achieve change one needs to first change themselves.

Leo Tolstoy wrote,

“Everyone talks of changing the world but no one thinks of changing [themselves].”

Bloom, Sadun, and Van Reenen asked the question, ‘Are organizations more likely to succeed if they adopt good management practices?’

While the article was insightful, I couldn’t help but ask myself some questions…

  1. How much of a difference, at the core of the issue of change management, can exist between self-awareness by the individual and an organization’s self-awareness?
  2. Are we too results driven (essentially too impatient) to know the how much time is realistically needed for change to occur?
  3. Are we measuring the right metrics?

Then I read Williams’ article and then issue of successful change management became clearer. If the numbers are correct, roughly 70% of change initiatives fail. This high number of failures is, according to Williams’, attributed to the fact that most organizations view change as an outside-in process.

I wonder if this is what Tolstoy meant by failing to look at changing yourself first.

Organizations are comprised of people and in order for organizations to change, their people have to change. Thus we have an ‘inside-out’ approach and according to both articles this is the key to successful change.

The biggest challenge is looking inward first.