Experts estimate that the success rate of major change efforts in organizations is only between 30% and 54%. When a change effort fails, it not only results in financial losses, but also in decreased employee morale, lost opportunities and wasted resources. Many researchers and experts have pondered why the failure rate is so high. Most believe it is due to the lack of a formal change management program and ultimately a failure of leadership.

Prior to the creation of a formal change management discipline, most change efforts ignored the people and culture within an organization. Most efforts of the reengineering boon of the 80s were massive projects that resulted in business process redesign and employee layoffs.  They totally ignored organizational culture and failed to take into account the people side of change. A late 1990s study showed that more than 70% of these reengineering efforts not only failed, but actually made things worse. In fact, several years after the craze ended, Michael Hammer, James Champy and Curtis Davenport, the three founders of reengineering, issued written apologies to the industrial world, admitting that amidst the enthusiasm of groundbreaking change, they had forgotten about people. 

Since virtually all organizations need to change in order to survive, the discipline of change management has significantly grown in both scope and importance since its inception in the 1990s. It has also matured from its past incarnation as merely a study of how people experience and react to change and application of these studies to individual projects, to the present day formulation that considers organizational capacity and the ability to change as a strategic advantage. 

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Stuart Levine


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