Why Change is Hard

Why Change is Hard

In 250 Words or Less

When we think about change, often we look at it as being done to us, not something that we are part of. Initiating change is a scary, overwhelming process that we often avoid because we lack the tools to accumulate buy-in and successfully plan and execute the change in the face of the following obstacles/barriers:

  1. psychological/political
  2. logistical
  3. financial
  4. external

This leads to inaction and preservation of the status quo until the pain becomes too much to bear, or the promise of the change becomes so enticing, that people are willing to drop their resistance and begin engaging in the activities necessary to realize the intended outcomes of the change.

Organizations must identify up-front not only why people may resist, but also who will likely resist. Some of the typical reasons why people will resist include:

  • loss of certainty (includes fear of job loss)
  • loss of purpose, direction, or status
  • loss of mastery (includes loss of expertise/recognition)
  • loss of control or ownership
  • loss of connection or attachment
  • lack of trust or clarity
  • fear of failure (feel unprepared)
  • seeing proposed change as irrelevant or a bad idea

Finally, change is hard because even if you idedntify and overcome the resistance/obstacles/barriers, hiding below the surface is the even more daunting prospect that according to a 2009 ProSci study, 73% of organizations are at or near change saturation — the point at which organizations are incapable of absorbing additional change.

(248 words)


One tool I created for the Change Planning Toolkit™ that will assist you in creating a stronger change strategy and more targeted communications as you lower resistance and get people to choose change are the Eight Change Mindsets:

Eight Change Mindsets to Harness for Success

Obviously it is really hard to fit everything into 250 words so I had to leave some great other highlights of why change is hard, including this one:

In a 2008 global CEO study conducted by IBM on the enterprise of the future, the top challenges to successfully implementing strategic change were identified as:

  1. changing mindsets and attitudes (58 percent)
  2. corporate culture (49 percent)
  3. underestimating complexity (35 percent)
  4. shortage of resources (33 percent)
  5. lack of commitment from higher management (32 percent)
  6. lack of change know-how (20 percent)
  7. lack of motivation of employees involved (16 percent)

And here are some other challenges I would have included in the list:

  • lack of tools
  • lack of training
  • stakeholder misalignment
  • lack of buy in
  • change saturation
  • change fatigue
  • lack of change readiness
  • missing prerequisites
  • underestimating resistance
  • missing resources needed to succeed
  • underestimating risks and barriers
  • underestimating benefits of the status quo

To make change easier you’ll definitely want to transform how you plan and execute change into a more visual and collaborative approach, ideally suited for remote and hybrid interactions. It’s all laid out in my latest book Charting Change and supported by the Change Planning Toolkit™. A growing number of universities are picking up and teaching this new modern approach. Why not you?


  1. Charting Change by Braden Kelley, Palgrave Macmillan, 2016
  2. Marsh survey on health, productivity and absenteeism—Prosci, 2009

Image Credit: Unsplash

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