The 3 Change Myths That Need Busting

Let's talk about BS

There are a few things that make us cringe. We feel we must talk to you about the 3 change "facts" that we hear A LOT:

  • Change fails 70% of the time,
  • Use carrots and sticks to managing change,
  • We need to overcome the inevitable resistance to change.

These three make the top of our change-myth-that-need-busting-list. Why? Because they are an outdated recipe for a messy transition. They stifle motivation and collaboration. And, ultimately set organisations up to fail in delivering successful change.

So let's get this straight:

#1 Change Failure

49 studies across 10 types of change found a 19% median success rate for cultural change, 40% for technology change and 58% for strategy development. You can see that the failure-rate varies depending on the type of change, the type of failure and the business' capability. The failure rate you should use for your project contingency plan should be much closer to 40-50%.

#2 Carrots and Sticks

Studies confirm that rewards (carrots) kill internal motivation by replacing it with external motivation. Every time we use the reward to nudge a behaviour towards our desired ways we make the task more about the reward and less about the joy of doing the task. Reward and recognition programs can be costly and inefficient. Instead, choose change initiatives that are high in engagement and co-creation. High engagement increases the probability of change success by up to 22%, cut implementation time by up to one-third.

#3 Resistance To Change

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Lastly, we have all heard that resistance is a given in change. More correctly, organisational transformation triggers a wide range of emotions in us and our employees. Qualitative studies show that when these emotions are acknowledged and treated with respect, people become more engaged with the change. Start to embrace your employee's reactions as engagement. Create an emotionally safe space to open the way for better collaboration, problem-solving and sustainable change outcomes.

Successful change leaders will need realistic, practical and evidence-based tools.


Eva is one of the masterminds behind Approach Services' blog and The 6 Cents of Change. She is an innovator, trainer and change manager. Her work has been published in Schmalenbach Journal of Business Research. In her spare time, she enjoys camping with her two little boys and permaculture gardening.

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