change management plans begin here

How To Build Better Change Management Plans.

The first step to building better change management plans is in setting the foundation.

change management plans

It seems so obvious. Yet, with organizational change projects failing as often as they do, one wonders if organizations are missing this vital area.

How Often Do Change Management Projects Fail?

project failure

Staggeringly often.

Beer & Nohria (2000) as cited in Ján & Veronika (2017) estimate approximately 70% of all change efforts to result in failure. Decker et al. (2012) also cited in Ján & Veronika (2017) place the number even higher, estimating that in excess of 90% of change efforts are unsuccessful.

These figures stem from research published in the Journal of Competitiveness.

We know organizations thrive on competition, seeking to outdo rivals by having the best sales, profits, and margins, by having the best NPS scores and customer reviews, or by attracting, and keeping, the best talent.

So, with this battle to constantly be the best, why do so many come up short so often?

Consider The Speed Of Change Management Plans.

the speed of change

In each of these competitive areas, there's an element of speed. Nearly everyone wants to be first to market, first to adopt the latest technologies, or first to capture the attention of prospective customers and the general public.

Every once in a while you win. You walk away with the golden ticket. The attention doesn't last, and the metrics aren't sustainable.

In the case of change management project success, speed is not your ally.

If This Is Familiar, You've Probably...

  • Felt like you're starting from scratch in every new change project.
  • Seen the resistance in the eyes of employees.
  • Dreaded having to explain why change failed.
  • Wondered where the grass is greener.

How To Refocus Your Change Management Strategy.

In my experience, most change efforts fail because of the rush to move to implementation without first developing the foundation for the change management plan.

change management strategy

"Yes, We've Heard This And We Came Up With A Plan."

If you've heard this, or have said it yourself before, the first thing to do here is ask yourself who "we" is.

If "we" is a board of directors, the CEO, or select members of an executive team, it may be true that, on paper, you've organized a well-informed plan.

However, you've probably felt resistance from different areas of the company once the intended changes and change plans have been announced.

Some middle managers and employees will support it right away, whether they believe in the plan or not. Others will nod their heads in agreement, while muttering their displeasure in private conversations. And, still others will aim to sabotage the change at every chance they get.

While crisis situations may call for the speed and decisiveness of a top-down approach, Pardó del Val & Martínez Fuentes (2003) as cited in Heyden et al. (2017) describe the employee disengagement and mistrust that results from this sort of change initiation in non-emergency situations.

Three Questions To Ask In Your Organization.

Before working with organizations, we find it important that they ask themselves these questions.

Each of these are critical to consider before starting any new change management plans or process. And, each leads to several more follow-up questions that can help draw a more clear roadmap to change success for your organization.

1️⃣ Are Our Employees Engaged?

Most organizational leaders like to think that the answer is yes. Often, a closer look at employee surveys can paint a different, and less positive, picture.

employee disengagementHow engaged or disengaged are your employees?

Before diving into the responses to survey questions, there's another question to ask:

What percentage of employees responded to the survey?

✅ If more than half respond, you may have sufficient data with which to begin identifying items of interest.

❌ If less than that respond:

  • Some level of organizational mistrust may exist.
  • The data from which to make informed opinions and to create strategy is weaker.

Based on the responses, you may also discover:

  • Which departments and generations feel most supported in career growth.
  • The extent to which employees feel their manager cares about their professional development.
  • Whether employees view the organization as one where they can grow.
  • If employees feel they've received appropriate, or ongoing, training to perform at their best.
  • Why employees choose to leave.

👉 Try creating a plan without understanding the pulse of the organization, and it's easy to see why most change efforts fail to gain the necessary employee support to succeed.

Yogi-isms. ⚾

"If you don't know where you are going, you'll end up someplace else." ~ Yogi Berra

2️⃣ Which Of Our Employees Are For Or Against Change?

thumbs up
against change

The results of an employee engagement survey, combined with stakeholder mapping and analysis, can tell you which employees are ready to support change and which are likely to resist.

You'll even find out how they're likely to go about doing so.

How does this help you?

It's a bit like the preparation that goes into deciding the game plan for sporting events.

When coaches know which of their players are active, healthy, and can be put into the game day lineup, and they understand their specialties and idiosyncrasies, they're better able to develop a vision and strategy, communicate it to the team members, receive feedback, make adjustments, and get everyone moving in the same direction, with the same goal in mind.

In developing organizational change management plans, you should be doing the same.

You can leave the pads and helmets at home, yet you'll want the information from stakeholder analysis so you can be proactive in your communication with key team members.

change management guiding coalitionAre enough of your team members involved in determining vision and strategy?

3️⃣ Who Is Involved In Crafting Our Vision And Strategy For Change?

Now that you know how people will react to change, it's best to get them involved.

You've seen what happens when top-down approaches are forced.

They're resisted by employees who feel as though:

  • They've had no say.
  • Their opinions aren't valued.
  • There's just going to be another change plan next week.

To break this pattern of belief and experience, the participation of the many is needed.

Kotter (2007) describes this participation as being part of the guiding coalition, often beginning with 2-5 people in the first year, yet growing to be between 20-50 people of various roles, titles, seniority, and function, and including members inside and outside of the executive team.

The presence of diversity and the inclusivity witnessed in the valuing of new voices and fresh perspectives can enhance the feelings of belonging among stakeholders, guiding your organization to improved strategy development, decision-making, and communication.


Too long, didn't read? Here are the key points:

  • Don't skip right to change implementation. Set the foundation first.
  • It's estimated that 70% - 90% or more of change efforts fail.
  • Speed is not your ally, except for in cases of crisis management.
  • A top-down approach can work in crisis, yet in day-to-day concerns, participation of the many is vital.
  • Perform an employee engagement survey (or have us conduct one with you)
  • Take time to understand the results.
  • Perform stakeholder analysis and mapping to understand who will help, who will resist, and how.
  • Form a guiding coalition, responsible for developing strategy and vision. Make sure this group is not solely made up of executives.

Here's one more important item. Be Patient. Change is not instant. In many cases, change projects can extend over several years. There's processes to support that experience, too.

Unlock The Potential In Your Change Management Plans.

unlock potential

If reading this article has you wondering whether your employees are for or against change, feel like they can grow in your organization, if they're planning their exits, and how you can make a difference, we can help.

Our Inevitabl Assessive: Change Management Audit is where organizations like yours begin to:

  • Establish engagement baselines.
  • Identify and categorize key stakeholders.
  • Understand existing areas of strength.
  • Isolate weaknesses needing near-immediate attention.
  • Appropriately introduce change management plans.

It's our passion to teach these principles of change management and to facilitate meaningful and sustainable change with our clients.

For More On Change Management.

This section of the site is an excellent primer for insight on methodologies, tools, and resources that can support successful change efforts.

To continue your learning:

Ask A Question. ❓

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Book A Call. 👥 🗓️

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In health,

David Bohmiller

David Bohmiller, MBA, MS (he/him/his)
Founder, CEO and Consulting Executive
Inevitabl LLC

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Heyden, M. L. M., Fourné, S. P. L., Koene, B. A. S., Werkman, R., & Ansari, S. (Shaz). (2017). Rethinking "Top-Down" and "Bottom-Up" Roles of Top and Middle Managers in Organizational Change: Implications for Employee Support. Journal of Management Studies (John Wiley & Sons, Inc.), 54(7), 961-985.

Ján, D. & Veronika, T. (2017). Examination of Factors Affecting the Implementation of Organizational Changes. Journal of Competitiveness, 9(4), 5-18.

Kotter, J. P. (2007). Leading Change: Why Transformation Efforts Fail. Harvard Business Review, 85(1).

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