The Change Management Fallacies
Society for Advanced Management Journal, vol.
The success ratio of organizational change management (OCM) is no better than fifty percent – the equivalent of a coin toss. This record remains unchanged for the last three decades, and thus, qualifies as a chronic condition. The difficulties that hinder OCM have their origins in three unchallenged fallacies. These fallacies erroneously assume that change is always a possibility; implementation is an inherent part of any change process; and that activity-driven approaches produce tangible results. To challenge such beliefs, one must shift the dialogue from possible to probable change, and move toward a robust practice theory of change and implementation. Moving from possible to probable change requires a diagonal diagnosis to reveal critical junctures between changes that improve performance, behaviors that reinforce the change, and strategic assumptions that channel an organization in a positive direction. To gain insight into a more effective practice theory of implementation, the paper looked at 237 organization development and change management projects performed as part of a capstone course in a master’s program. Although we evaluated each project against multiple criteria, we focused on one in particular. That is, did the change project provide evidence that it had a positive organizational benefit or impact? Projects coded high evidence compared to projects coded low evidence revealed three qualitative differences between successful and less successful change projects. These included practices that make it easier for organizations to implement change; practices that sustain momentum and move projects forward; and practices that generate results. By augmenting process theories of change with more robust implementation practices, the paper suggests that the odds of successful change management can improve.