Why Transformation Efforts Fail in Management

Subject: Management
Pages: 2
Words: 542
Reading time:
3 min
Study level: Master

The article by John Kotter investigates the eight errors of change management that result in institutional change failures. Proper understanding of the stages during the change process might help to ensure a seamless adaptation to a new market environment. The following essay will describe the errors and provide one management solution to each problem.

The first error of change management is the lack of a sense of urgency. According to Kotter (2007), 50% of the companies fail during the first phase, which requires employee motivation, since “without motivation, people won’t help” (p. 3). Effective leadership is vital for creating a sense of urgency in the company (ten Have, Rijsman, ten Have, & Westhof, 2019). The problem may be solved by discussing competition, insufficient earnings, or lack of revenue growth.

The second error is the absence of a powerful guiding coalition during the first year of change. Many renewal programs start with a small management team, but without a coalition, an individual or a group can “derail the decision-making process” (Daft, 2017, p. 276). A coalition of three to five people supported by the leader can ensure strong commitment and performance.

The third error is lacking a vision and creating confusion among employees and managers. The solution to this problem is the development of a clear and compelling statement to raise “awareness” and promote beliefs (Stouten et al., 2018, p. 755). It should briefly explain the direction and vision of the company.

The fourth error is under-communicating the vision by a factor of 10. It happens when vision captures only 0.0001% of the total communication (Kotter, 2007). According to King and Alperstein (2017), transformation is impossible without effective communication. Thus, the error might be avoided by the routine promotion of the new vision by senior managers.

The fifth error is not removing obstacles to the new vision. The blockers include inefficient organizational structure, inadequate compensation system, or unproductive leadership (Kotter, 2007). To resolve the problem, management should remove the barriers by eliminating narrow job categories, providing performance incentives, and improving managerial effectiveness according to the new vision.

The sixth error is the lack of systematic planning and short-term wins. Since any change might be threatening, people need immediate results to support the transformation process (Williams, McWilliams, Lawrence, & Waheduzzaman, 2019). As a part of systematic planning, managers should create short-term achievements, including performance improvements, meaningful objectives, and an employee reward system.

The seventh error is declaring victory too soon, which happens when managers see the first performance improvement as the end of the change process. To correct the error, the leaders should evaluate the consistency of the changes with the vision. The shared vision should be revised by change agents and stakeholders “at all stages of project development and implementation” (Doten-Snitker et al., 2020, p. 2). It is also important to use the credibility of short-term accomplishments to solve bigger issues.

The eighth error is not anchoring changes in corporate culture. The practice of Standardized Work, involving documentation of the current operations, creates the foundation for continuous improvements (Dietrich, Kenworthy, & Cudney, 2019). Standardized Work can help to anchor change by establishing standards that encourage efficient management strategies. Overall, effective change management might be achieved by preventing or correcting the mistakes discussed above.


Daft, R. L. (2017). Management (13th ed.). Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.

Dietrich, D. M., Kenworthy, M., & Cudney, E. A. (2019). Additive manufacturing change management: Best practices. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.

Doten-Snitker, K., Margherio, C., Litzler, E.. Ingram, E., & Williams, J. (2020). Developing a shared vision for change: Moving toward inclusive empowerment. Research in Higher Education, 1–24.

King, E., & Alperstein, N. (2017). Best practices in planning strategically for online educational programs. New York, NY: Routledge.

Kotter, J. P. (2007). Leading change: Why transformation efforts fail. Harvard Business Review85(1), 1–10.

Stouten, J., Rousseau, D. M., & Cremer, D. D. (2018). Successful organizational change: Integrating the management practice and scholarly literatures. Academy of Management Annals, 12(2), 752–788.

ten Have, S., Rijsman, J., ten Have, W., & Westhof, J. (2018). The social psychology of change management: Theories and an evidence-based perspective on social and organizational beings. New York, NY: Routledge.

Williams, C., McWilliams, A., Lawrence, R., & Waheduzzaman, W. (2019). MGMT4 (4th ed.). Melbourne, Australia: Cengage Learning Australia.