More than 70% of transformation efforts fail, according to data reported in Harvard Business Review. John Kotter, one of the most prominent leaders in the business transformation industry, spent 15 years studying why change initiatives fail, which led to the development of his 8-step process. In the first two parts of this series, we discussed Why Business Transformation Efforts Fail: Climate and then Why Business Transformation Efforts Fail: Communications. These articles both addressed why change doesn’t happen, but in this article, we’ll discuss why change doesn’t stick.

Never Let Up
Getting change to occur can be a monumental task, but getting that change to take root is vital to ensure that all the hard work put forth across the entire organization has lasting value. The tendency at many organizations is to take the foot off the gas once some initial success from a transformation initiative has been achieved. This is a huge mistake. It’s like declaring victory before the game is over.

To ensure that the improvement momentum is sustained, keep your foot on the gas by following a few simple guidelines:

  • Maintain a sense of urgency and relevance about solving the problem
  • Avoid assigning unnecessary tasks, busy work, or the scheduling of non-value-added meetings
  • Create an environment of continuous improvement and ongoing learning

Change as a Part of Culture
For transformation to be successful over the long term, the changes must become part of the organizational DNA. Simply put, the “changed” way of doing things must be embraced as the standard for how things are done going forward. The problem is that in any organization you will have enthusiastic adopters, reluctant followers, and strong resistors.

Being selective, take some key enthusiastic adopters and place them as champions of change across key business areas. They’ll pull along some of the reluctant followers. But also take note of your strong resistors, as they tend to fall into two camps. One group will simply be made up of people that don’t want any change to occur for any reason, unless it involves other people changing to make their job easier. It’s ok if those resistors leave the organization. It’s the other resistor camp that you want to be careful about. These people tend to be excellent at what they do, passionate, yet individualistic. They typically feel as if they have developed effective processes or mechanisms that don’t need to be changed or may even be harmed by the change. They may even be right, but these are people that you need to actively engage to ensure their buy-in. They often wield strong influence within the organization and can be a valuable champion for change if you can convert them.

There and Back Again
Creating a culture of transformation is not a one-time event. It is a continuous and recurring process that requires a systemic approach and a strong commitment for change from the top-down. It is also inclusive in that it requires the senior executive team to embrace authentic change as much as mid-level management and the front-line employees.

More on Business Transformation
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Ines LeBow is the CEO, Transformation Executive for ETS. She is a known catalyst for business operations, bringing 30+ years of hands-on experience. Ines has a long history of being recruited into senior executive roles to improve the execution of business operations and to drive revenue growth. You can see her LinkedIn Profile at, view the ETS website at, or email her directly at