Avoid These Five Critical Mistakes In Leading Change!

Avoid These Five Critical Mistakes In Leading Change!

Leading an organizational change initiative is something that, more likely than not, you will take on as a leader. It could impact your team, your department, or even the whole organization.

You might have come across a statistic which claims that 70% of organizational change efforts fail. This might lead you to have second thoughts about whether you really want to embark on this change!1

Here are two things that will help you feel calmer…

Organizational Change Management

First, the statistic is a myth. It appears to have originated in an article in the early 1990s, but no independent research has been able to uncover any primary evidence for this claim1.

Second, I’ve got five tips that will help you identify common pitfalls that can indeed threaten the success of a change initiative. Paying attention to these tips won’t guarantee your ultimate success, but they can help you avoid missteps that can make the path more challenging.


These five lessons are drawn from my experience working with leaders from a wide range of organizational settings over the last 30 years.

  • Mistake 1: Springing Change on People
    Springing a significant organizational change on your employees will catch them by surprise, leading to negative reactions and resistance. When caught off guard, they may feel confused and uncertain about the future. This, in turn, can lower morale, increase anxiety, and reduce productivity among your workforce.

Try This: Communicate the context and reasons for the change. While it is not always possible to prepare them in advance of an announcement, engage your employees in ways that help them understand that the status quo is not sustainable.

  • Mistake 2: Overly Confident Planning
    A common pitfall is to place your confidence in an overly ambitious and detailed plan. As a leader, you might prepare a plan assuming everything will proceed flawlessly, without any interruptions or complications. This unrealistic sense of confidence can then create a perception of ‘magical thinking’ among staff, leading to skepticism and distrust towards leadership’s approach. Assumptions and risks are also missed during the planning process, further complicating change implementation.

Try This: Develop the overall structure of your approach, with key phases identified. Follow this by creating a “rolling planning process” that plans ahead for the next 6-12 months. This will allow you to continuously update your plan, taking account of progress and any other developments as you proceed.

  • Mistake 3: Holding on to Control
    In the dynamic landscape of organizational change and growth, a common challenge arises when leaders presume they can control and dictate the pace of change.
    Employees and stakeholders directly impacted by the change are therefore excluded from participating in the planning and decision-making processes. As leaders tend to be removed from the ground-level intricacies, this lack of perspective can lead to unrealistic expectations. Feedback loops from those at the operational level become slower and less candid. Staff become disenchanted and disaffected as they perceive a top-driven process that overlooks the day-to-day realities they face.

Try This: Establish a change management team with representation from a cross-section of the organization. Intentionally draw on diverse perspectives to help inform you of how the change is being received and what obstacles might be emerging.

  • Mistake 4: Misunderstanding Resistance
    When guiding an organization through change, a common mistake is for leaders to misunderstand resistance. Questions, challenges, pushback, and disengagement are considered a direct threat to the change initiative and even to leadership itself. Along with taking it personally, a misreading of the situation is to view a challenge as defiance rather than what it often is – confusion and a search for clarity.

Try This: Keep an open mind and stay curious! What looks like resistance is more often an expression of people either not understanding the change or not liking it (because they would have preferred a different approach to the current situation). In far fewer cases is the pushback truly personal.

  • Mistake 5: Overlooking Key Stakeholders
    When leadership assesses the need for change and plans an initiative in isolation, key stakeholders are often overlooked. This can lead to blind spots, with the change strategy missing critical considerations. Further, change initiatives are sometimes approached from the lens of what the organization or leadership perceives as necessary. This narrow perspective doesn’t consider the unique needs, concerns, and viewpoints of those directly affected by the change, and these aren’t considered in the initial plan.

Try This: Carry out a stakeholder analysis early on, while you are still preparing for change. Identify relevant stakeholders who are vested in the outcome of the change process and invite their participation in the process. This brings crucial perspectives and insights and promotes buy-in.


What’s Next? Organizational Change Management

  • I spoke about these 5 critical mistakes in a recent podcast interview. Listen to my conversation to hear more examples and practical tips!

RCA Podcast Covers PMA podcast

  • Are you interested in more tips and support for leading change? Sign up for an invitation to the next RCA Change Leaders Roundtable, a 75-minute gathering that I host once a quarter.

Contact me to learn more about how I tailor my proven solutions to address your unique needs, whether for individuals, groups, teams, or entire organizations. 

Organizational Change Management


1 Curious about the 70% myth? Learn more in this article: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/70-organisational-change-failure-rate-still-living-myth-berggreen/

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