20 June 2017

Professor John Amis shares his take on the common pitfalls to avoid when leading change.

Change happens whether we want it to or not. And in today’s complex and dynamic world, it happens ever more quickly and frequently.

Find out about more about the Leading Strategic Change Masterclass 

Organisations that can’t keep up will fall by the wayside. Which is why a whole industry devoted to managing organisational transformations has grown up in recent decades, and why strategic change leaders are now hot property.

Yet more than two thirds of change programmes fail. More often than not, because of the same mistakes.

Here are three change management mistakes to stop making right now:

1. No coherent, achievable vision

It’s easy to check-off things that are wrong within an organisation, carry out a quick SWOT analysis, or come up with a mission statement. Most of us recognise these things are not vision, but they are all too often used in its place.

In fact, because they fail to engage with the fundamental requirements of effective change, such activities can be more damaging in the long run than taking no action at all.

Great change leaders understand the external challenges facing an organisation. They engage people at every level to build a collective sense of understanding of the transformation required.

Only by doing so is it possible create a compelling vision, capable of driving the organisation forward.

2. Poor communication

People dislike change, especially when they feel it’s being imposed against their will.  And if there’s a lack of communication, members of the organisation will be all too happy to fill the vacuum with their own speculation and rumours.

Strategic change leadership is about understanding how to use different modes of interaction for different messages at different times.

Communication can mobilise people to engage with change, but if it’s not implemented effectively, it will quickly derail even the most well-planned change process.

3. Declaring victory too quickly

We’ve all got a tendency to publicly pat ourselves on the back when we feel our initiatives have worked.  Particularly if it gives us a chance – albeit a measured and professional one – to tell naysayers, ‘I told you so.’

But change is only effective if it can be sustained. It’s important to recognise how to institutionalise change so that what was once considered new and unusual quickly becomes taken-for-granted.

Declaring victory too soon can cause the good work already done to rapidly unravel.


Professor John AmisProfessor John Amis is Chair in Strategic Management & Organisation at University of Edinburgh Business School.

He will lead a two-day Masterclass on Leading Strategic Change on 20 and 21 November 2017.

Image source: Photo by bernie_photo/iStockphoto

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