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What are the Challenges to Organisational Change Management?

The true purpose of Organisational Change Management is to continuously make progress towards improving the future state of the enterprise. An enterprise can be modified in several external and internal ways, but organisational change refers to the alteration of structural relationships and roles of people in the organisation. This why change in the individual behaviour of your employees is a critical measure of change success or failure!

Implementing successful Change Management across an organisation is very much like a journey or a roadmap towards change. This approach requires ongoing attention, re-direction, and can be impeded by several varying obstacles. The major challenges to manage along this change journey are typically – gaining buy-in (from stakeholders and employees), tracking and measuring project health, and evaluating the Change Management efforts. However, to deliver measurable business results from a change initiative, overcoming each of these obstacles effectively is essential for any organisation.

A single Change Project is not an instantaneous action. For Change Managers, guiding an organisation through a period of change transition can be very challenging (and frustrating). But the process of overcoming organisational change challenges doesn’t have to be a laborious objective by nature. However, successful organisational change may be your Executive Management’s greatest triumph and prove to be rewarding with instilling the culture-awareness within your teams and individuals.

Why the people aspect of Change Management is the main cause of project failure?

Organisational Change Management helps your stakeholders get buy-in for their Business Case. It helps them understand the change requirements – foresee, prepare, plan, execute, implement – and handle change-related issues. But it’s also about the importance for recognising all of the ways that change impacts business objectives and that Change Management helps make the process (structured and measured) and as painless as possible for everyone involved.

Upon realisation of the aspect of change, organisations cannot run successful Change Management without its people’s application and commitment to the change initiative. That’s why businesses should involve their employees in the organisation’s Change Management Process from start to finish – without employee buy-in, Change Management can fail!

The main four (4) reasons that Change Management fails are based on the following:

  • Poorly planned integration approaches.
  • Inadequate alignment of the Communication Plan.
  • Incorrect target or goal identification to business objectives.
  • Delayed implementation and loss of traction (time).

Business transitions require unqualified support from your Executive Management Team, Senior Management, and middle Managers. Change implementation is extremely hard and that is why it is critically important to look at your employee involvement during this process. Change is unfamiliar, disruptive, evokes fear (of the unknown), and can feel threatening to your employee’s mindset. It can cause confusion amongst your team members, delays in timelines, frustrated employees, lower productivity, etc.

But uninvested stakeholders or employees aren’t the only reason Organisational Change Management fails because it also takes a knowledgeable, committed, prepared leadership, and Human Resources team that is equipped for the long-haul process. The responsibility and accountability for the above issues rest with Change Leaders and their Change Project Team. They are tasked with identifying a Change Management Process that will work for the organisation, they must keep the project on schedule and on target to ensure project success.

What are the barriers to Organisational Change Management?

Humans and their brains are hardwired to resist change. When change (especially organisational change) is mentioned or introduced into your business, it will often trigger a response of fear, anxiety, and uncertainty. This is why most of us are resistant to any deviation from WHAT we know, internally panic, and this mental fatigue increases when we realise something is about to change. No wonder we want to ignore organisational change!

This very intrinsic automatic reaction and unconscious resistance presents a huge challenge to organisational change. But the new path to successful change doesn’t stop there. For example, trying to communicate “change is great” to a large group of employees, all of whom have a hard-wired resistance to change, as well as different personalities, ethics, aspirations, motivation, learning styles, levels of expertise and work experience – building commitment to change is extremely challenging.

An essential first step for Executive Leaders and Senior Managers is to inspire and influence through change, with a uniquely deep understanding of the emotional effects of change, better self-awareness, and social awareness of their teams. Developing a winning Change Project Team starts with managing resistance to change but then requires you to first understand why people resist change (in the first instance). Next identify the causes of their resistance, before you consider your strategic approach and formulating you plan (and techniques) for mitigating and reducing resistance to change.

How to overcome the barriers to Organisational Change innovation?

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Your Organisational Change Management success is impeded by the answer to a very important question – How do you overcome these barriers to change innovation?

The following points will help your efforts to implement and influence better change initiatives across your organisation.

1. Control the narrative as a Change Leader

Remember, like any project, the change journey must be treated like running a marathon, not a 100m sprint!

As a Change Leader, control the messaging / narrative of the change and so there is vigilant consistency in the communication approach. When individuals receive little communication, they will fill in the blanks with wrong narratives. Be in front of and control the narrative, by constantly assuring your team that following the Change Management Plan and they need to trust the change process.

The approach that leading the change is a part of your role. As a result, you can keep your perspective while instilling a proper perspective for your team on the milestones and the end goal.

2. Communicate the “WHY” when engaging employees buy-in

Organisations waste money, time, and resources each year on new change initiatives because their Change Leaders fail to seek, understand, and sustain employee buy-in. By making a decree for change and a lack of Change Management sponsorship for change initiatives is a huge mistake.

Engaging your frontline employees and at every level of your organisation is of primary importance. They derive purpose and meaning from their work roles and actively seek positive relationships with their colleagues, who work with them toward business goals. They want to know the “WHY” behind any change initiative being mandated and supported by your Executive Management Team and Senior Managers.

The commercial reality is that employees won’t buy in if they don’t understand the reasons for the change. By simply engaging your employees and surrounding them with Managers, who are mentors and rather than productivity drivers. Engagement and belief will follow.

3. Adapting workflows and individual mindsets for the future direction

Organisations must adapt to environmental changes and disruptions from COVID-19 since our new normal landscape, may well be the biggest challenge that lies ahead. The learning outcomes of the last 2 years, which was a once-in-a-lifetime event (hopefully!) has given your Leadership Group the opportunity to use their newly acquired knowledge and to manage the future state of change.

Change is seldom a one-time event. The COVID-19 pandemic is almost certainly still changing the business environment that your organisation operates, and the continued learning outcomes should be incorporated into leadership workflows moving forward. Managing the elements of change in such a way that benefits your business and its employees is the most logical, effective way to move forward.

  • Develop a Change Management methodology for identifying the change.
  • Define the change as an opportunity that benefits your organisation and employees, rather than a disruptor.
  • Consider how the new change initiative will benefit the overall organisation. How can this be a real future advantage?
  • Develop an Action Plan to manage the change disruption and help maximise your organisational response (and resources).
  • Maintain the focus on making the Change Management Process repeatable and human-centred (very important!).

4. Building new culture-awareness in remote teams

From a Human Resources perspective, remote work for a majority of organisations has been the biggest disruptor since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The shift to onsite work to dispersed teams has created massive Change Management challenges for many businesses and quick transition to adapt to the new way of working.

Dealing with the COVID-19 changing landscape has shifted our culture from physical interactions to virtual interactions. Executive Management Teams and Senior Managers have tried to adapt their communication styles to this new normal – How can your Leaders manage interpersonal relationships in this new environment? There are no more non-meeting chats, brainstorming, or casual social interactions that formerly connected individuals into teams and to fix simple problems. It’s challenging to be alone all day and can produce a feeling of detachment.

With an uplift of frequent communication with teams and individuals on both formal and informal channels, this help to overcome this disengagement and keep culture thriving within your organisation. Focus on centring your Mission Statement (Goals and Values) to provide your employees with purpose, intent, and belief on your organisational direction. Create an engaged community with events, activities, huddles, and stand-up meetings, and use these mediums to acknowledge the efforts of specific team members.

5. Provide support to your Change Leaders coaching perspective

Your Executive Management Team needs to support their Change Leaders. As a Change Leader, it is your role to coach your Executives to provide their teams with the strategy, support, tools, resources, and manage disrupted change. Executive Management sponsor the change, exemplify the right values and behaviours, and provide the support network for Change Leaders to navigate successful change implementation.

Change Leaders amalgamate and put Change Champions in place, so they can enable delegation and ensure communicated is cascaded to all impacted employees. Change Leaders need to stay on the message and hold the course of the change journey. Having too many meetings or not enough meetings and too many one-off discussions about the change can cause them to become overwhelmed, dealing with resistance and politics.

Major organisational change initiatives often take longer than expected. This can require more resources or specific external consultants than were originally allotted or maybe there will be less employee resistance (than expected). Consistently communicate realistic expectations to all organisation levels and provide critical perspective to your impacted employees, your Executives, your stakeholder, your Change Management Team, and most importantly, to yourself.

6. Two-way communication channels provide realistic expectations

As Change Leaders, you automatically become classified as counsellors and mediators. But this allows for “open yet organised” communication as you’re overcoming organisational change challenges together as a team. Discuss the change journey, clearly illustrate that the change initiative is an iterative event (ongoing), and by reminding team members that everyone will experience this change together (as a team).

It is critically important that your employees need to understand the “top-down” approach – everyone from Executive Management, Senior Management, Managers, right down to the front-line employees will be engaged (and accountable) for implementing the changes. The Change Management Team is responsible for the success of the change but impacted employees tend to be passive. Everyone must actively participate!

Set up very specific two-way communication channels at the beginning of the change initiative and instruct all employees to use those channels. This helps reduce the amount of time they ask you for questions, including one-off conversations and provides realistic expectations. Reassurance from your Change Leaders is what is required for your employees understanding of the learning curve, as the change journey evolves.

Up front, let your impacted employees know that change will be challenging, stressful, and there will be ambiguity during the progressive stages. This can be extremely challenging because employees like to have specific, detailed, and concise information but they will push for more details. It’s typically normal for employees to want a transparent vision of what change impacts to expect, but your communication needs to be a consistent medium; details will come as the journey continues.


An opportunity for organisational change exists in every business and whilst present, the process of enabling and managing organisational change will continue to be a critical challenge.

Organisational change is an important characteristic of most organisations and is inevitable in a progressive culture. An organisation must develop adaptability to the “forces of change” and broadening view that modern businesses have become highly dynamic, versatile, and adaptive to the multiplicity of changes.

As with any business initiative or project, attracting, hiring, and retaining the right employee talent pool can be significant momentum for change leaders to deliver their Change Programme. Having the right team to help influence change within an organisation and develop trust behind a change initiative can make all the difference throughout the entire process of organisational change. The facts demonstrate for change leaders that you’re working with human beings (and individuals) and therefore need to undertake a different approach when asking employees to change.

Effective Change Management strategies will ensure that organisational changes are always benefiting the “bigger picture”, while mitigating employee resistance and business disruption. By taking a proactive, intentional approach to leading change but with the right perspective, you will have greater control of your change initiative, be better prepared to implement change, and feel much less stress with reaching the end goal.

Need some guidance on your next steps? Let’s start a conversation…