Why are Personal and Organizational Changes Still Failing?

July 3, 2009
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Have you ever heard the following saying?

“Sometimes you have to go slow to go fast.”

This phrase speaks volumes about a value that is lacking in our American culture. We live in a ‘I want it now’ culture. A culture that doesn’t want to put the time in, the practice in, to dig deep, to ‘peel the layers of the onion’ if you will, to really uncover, to understand deeply why personal and organizational changes often fail. Decades of studies have consistently shown that 50–70 percent of change initiatives fail. Why is that? Surely, there is plenty of research, a slew of best practices, and a multiple of training courses on managing change.

Why then are personal and organizational changes notoriously difficult to carry out? Why are change projects still failing?

Self-Discipline

My experience leads me to believe that one of the reasons personal and organizational changes fail is because managing change is a discipline, comprised of many skills, that requires ongoing practice. The self-discipline required to make the change happen is not a skill that our ‘I want it now’ culture cultivates. People go to a change management training course or read a book on personal or organizational change


Have you ever heard the following saying?

“Sometimes you have to go slow to go fast.”

This phrase speaks volumes about a value that is lacking in our American culture. We live in a ‘I want it now’ culture. A culture that doesn’t want to put the time in, the practice in, to dig deep, to ‘peel the layers of the onion’ if you will, to really uncover, to understand deeply why personal and organizational changes often fail. Decades of studies have consistently shown that 50–70 percent of change initiatives fail. Why is that? Surely, there is plenty of research, a slew of best practices, and a multiple of training courses on managing change.

Why then are personal and organizational changes notoriously difficult to carry out? Why are change projects still failing?

Self-Discipline

My experience leads me to believe that one of the reasons personal and organizational changes fail is because managing change is a discipline, comprised of many skills, that requires ongoing practice. The self-discipline required to make the change happen is not a skill that our ‘I want it now’ culture cultivates. People go to a change management training course or read a book on personal or organizational change and think they’re done. They wonder why their change initiatives are still failing, why they’re struggling to implement change. Tiger Woods did not win numerous championships as a result of a single golf lesson. His accomplishments are the result of unwavering hard work, dedication, focus, and lots of practice. The self-discipline required to achieve excellence flies in the face of the ‘I want it now’ mindset.

“There is no magic key to becoming a better rider, only hard work and dedication.” Charlotte Bredahl-Baker

“You don’t read a book or take a golf lesson and suddenly know how to golf. You learn by doing, by practicing.”

On-the-Ground Coaching

In addition to the self discipline required, I would assert that people don’t invest in any follow up and ‘on-the-ground’ coaching to guide them as they put into practice the new ideas and tools they just acquired in a training course. The best of the best have coaches. Research shows that people need to reflect, experiment, and put into practice what they have learned. People learn by doing. Real time feedback and ‘on-the-ground’ coaching is invaluable when it comes to getting really good at something.

A coach can see what you cannot.

A coach can guide you as you peel the layers of the onion in your practice.

A coach can ‘get your mind right’ when you run into challenges.

A coach can ensure you’re on the right track.

A coach can help you turn your learnings into sustainable skills.

In summary,

  1. Get a coach – leverage those that have gone before you. You will save time, energy, gain a return on your investment.
  2. Practice self-discipline. Excellence doesn’t happen overnight. Excellence has nothing to do with ‘I want it now.’ Start shifting your thinking.