Change for Change Sake!

Throughout my career one of the things that seems to repeatedly happen were Organisation Changes that made no sense whatsoever.

Either they had little to no benefit and they didn’t really make an significant change in the way things were done, or they were actually detrimental to performance as they confused the organisation and they disrupted what was a previously well working department.

I think in my 25 year career I must have experienced around 20 to 30 organisational changes, which 0n average was about 1 per year, and in one company I actually experienced 3 major changes in one year.

The sad thing is that of these 20-30 changes I would say that only 2 or 3 were actually beneficial and made a real change to the organisation, thats less than 10%.

The key characteristics of the successful changes were

  • it was well communicated;
  • people understood what the change was and;
  • people understood why the change  was made

Which, on reflection is not really a long complex list of things to get right in order for a change to be successful.

But too often the changes I experienced were poorly communicated, people often never understood why the change was being made, nor could they see any benefit too it, and lastly and most bizarrely they were not clear what the change actually meant to them.

They didn’t know what they were meant to do differently after the change compared to before the change.

With the result that, there was little to no real change implemented, and the only thing that happened was that there was a performance drop whilst people tried to figure out what the change meant to them.

Change for change sake, which doesn’t lead to any real benefit, is massively demotivating to an organisation, it prevents a creation of identity, it leads to concern and uncertainty, it stops people from buying into what is going on as they know another change will be coming soom, and consequently it undermines the credibility of the leadership.

I mean why would you just change something for no real reason, it looks like you have no clue what else to do, so let’s reorganise.

At one company where I worked we had a major reorganisation, I was fairly new to the company and I didn’t fully understand the implication of the change, so I asked on of my more experienced colleagues, someone who had worked with the company for 15 years what the change meant.

He said to me, and I will never forget it “don’t worry if you don’t understand it, just ignore it and hope you understand the next change which should be along in 6-9 months“.

Given that was the view of a senior member of the team how on earth would this change deliver any real benefit.

Too often, in my experience, reorganisations are carried out to look to resolve performance issues, but usually the real problem isn’t the organisational structure, so changing that isn’t going to deliver the benefit you’re looking for.

It’s like a football team who can’t tackle, and the manager thinking that if we change from 4-4-2 formation to 4-5-1 formation that miraculously our tackling will improve.

It won’t ,you only improve tackling by practicing tackling, not by changing formation.

This is true in business, if you are under performing, either not making enough profit, or the right quality of product, its unlikely that a reorganisation will fix it.

This is weak leadership, rather than focusing on the real problem they deflect attention through a reorganisation and hope.

My recommendation to any organisation would be:

  • to make as few changes to the organisation as possible;
  • create continuity and stability;
  • and look to identify what the real problems are and then put team in place to address them.

If you do that then you will have a much better chance of success.


If not, you’re just doing the equivalent of rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, and we all know how that ended!