Guide

Change management

Barriers to organisational change management

To develop a successful strategy for organisational change, you must understand the types of barriers your business may face.

It's best to identify potential problems early, as this will allow you to develop a tailored change management approach to overcoming difficulties and hurdles to your business' transformation.

Top reasons for change management failure

In most cases, failure to achieve organisational change is driven by one of the following factors:

  • limited understanding of the change and its impact
  • negative employee attitudes
  • failure to involve employees in the change process
  • poor or inefficient communication
  • inadequate resources or budget - see cost of change management
  • resistance to organisational culture shift
  • lack of management support for the change
  • lack of commitment to change
  • past experience of failed change initiatives

Other practical barriers can involve a lack of skills, lack of staff, difficulties in establishing service, absence of equipment required for the change, or inadequate organisational infrastructure. If key employees leave or move around the organisation, it may also be difficult to maintain changes after you've introduced them.

Consequences of poor change management

The costs and outcomes of poorly managed change can be significant. They include:

  • financial losses
  • productivity and performance drops
  • decline in quality of work
  • wasted time and resources
  • inability to retain staff
  • increase in employee sickness levels
  • poor staff morale
  • inefficiencies
  • impact on customers and suppliers
  • missed opportunities

You should also consider the damage to your business brand, loss of credibility and general change fatigue. See importance of change management for business continuity.

Overcoming barriers to change management

To avoid your project slowing down or derailing, you should follow the basic change management principles. These rely on:

  • leading staff through change
  • communicating with staff and stakeholders about the change
  • understanding the need and the impact of change
  • involving all levels of staff in the change process
  • sustaining the change and embedding as part of the new norm

Read more about the importance of communication in change management.

Certain factors may nurture a business atmosphere that is conducive to change. For example, strong leadership team, the culture of continuous improvement and motivated staff. However, it is likely that you will need to try and implement different approaches to overcome the different barriers.

Keep in mind that change can take a long time to achieve and resistance is common in many types of change projects. It's important to consider the scale of change realistically and decide if small, incremental changes are more suitable than a quick, full-scale organisational change.

See also benefits of change management.