Why is it so Hard for Organizations to Change?

ChangeisHardThanks to the power of Google we can ask questions and usually find the exact question.

Or we can ask a question and a blogger will create a post with an answer.

This question has landed on my blog multiple times.

My experience tells me the answer is a list of underlying things that develop over time to manage, control and keep track of an expanding company. Anything that reinforces the present can be said to make change hard.

  1. Reporting
  2. Measurement
  3. Governance
  4. Insularity


Start up’s often have a completely loose structure that utilizes every bit of each individuals skill and time. Stuff has to get done and people are anxious to do stuff. Everything is solution and goal oriented. No fluff. No monitoring.

There comes a point in a company’s development where the goals get bigger, the solutions wider. Either by the nature of the confusion of big, or because this is the way it always works, levels of reporting are added. First it is founder and employees. Then Directors get added (or with some firms, comically VP’s who set up and find reports). Then later the Directors need a promotion so another layer is added. Each time a new product or service is created more layers (or at least verticals) get tacked on.

Each employee has to have someone to report to right?

(Except that I have seen start-ups with lots of employees not have any real reporting structure).

Each new reporting arrangement creates another layer of potential internal politics. Practitioners take note- chasing politics for change management is addressing the symptom rather than the cause.


Measurement is a necessity. Without it there is no way to adjust planning and process to get better (and more profitable).

Keeping track of things like sales figures makes sense- especially if the recording is baked into current processes to not take much time.

It is when measurement becomes a thing in and of itself, say measuring the effectiveness of a change process, that change gets hard. When measurement becomes justification for something (this is the perfect example of that) then it will be hard for an organization to change. Never have I seen this example lead to betterment. The numbers and “best practices” end up sitting in a spreadsheet on SharePoint gathering dust.

Measure for effectiveness. Measure for genuine improvement so measurement does not make it hard to change.


The world seems filled with many more rule makers than the opposite.

Organizations at a certain size suck these people in like a vacuum. Governance is putting parameters around things. Governance is putting parameters on the things people do within organizations. Governance is police measurement. People (who are the core of the actions needed for change) don’t much like that much external control.

I find it interesting that those who are in charge of governance in organizations are the least amenable to change.



The more inward an organization the harder it will be for them to make any changes.

The worst change initiatives are those done completely internally. They rearrange everything in the present to create a new present.

The things that make the organization turn inward are the things that make change difficult.

Here is a short list for insularity: measuring your best practices, gathering the best practices of equally insular organizations, hiring contractors instead of consultants, insisting on “industry expertise, any “my way or the highway” attitude, command and control structures, silos within etc.

This list of four things: reporting, measurement, governance and insularity is the framework I use in my practice to decide whether (and to what extent) it will be hard for my client’s organization to change. These four things answer the question, “Why is it so Hard for Organizations to Change?”.

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