Have you seen a change programme within your organisation fail… and then be asked to resurrect it? Re-introducing failed projects back into the organisation is never easy.

The challenge is that often these initiatives have been sold in at a high level within the organisation with a business case that sounds entirely logical and sensible. However, the senior managers who are bought into these programmes rarely take enough time to understand the practical issues related with embedding them into a complex, change-weary and often cynical organisation. They also fail to fully explain the reasoning behind the programme or set in place support mechanisms and resources to embed the change fully at the ground level. Furthermore, they underestimate the time needed to fully embed this type of change and tend to take away key resources and support prematurely.

Inevitably, this means that either the change never really embeds, is susceptible to local workarounds and eventually becomes more of a liability than an asset for the organisation.  Organisations are littered with failed projects that meet these criteria.

So, what do I advise?

First, leaders should honestly appraise whether the vision and direction they have set for the change is the right one. If it transpires that the change is the wrong one, I always encourage giving it a descent and public “”burial”. Often, unviable “zombie” projects lumber on and are never properly terminated meaning that the organisation is never sure whether or not the project is still alive. This just adds to cynicism and a sense of “tried that and it failed”.

Next, if the vision is still correct and the change is still the right one, leaders should publicly and energetically reaffirm this and clarify the reasons and sense of urgency behind the change. When resurrecting projects that have been through this type of “failure cycle”, I always advise that managers and leaders within the organisation acknowledge previous shortcomings and the reasons for this. They should engage authentically and openly with everyone who has been affected.

Finally, re-framing the re-introduction of previously “failed” projects as a leadership rather than a management challenge helps by focusing the organisation on:

  • Building the capability of managers to lead (and not just manage) change effectively and to inspire employees to buy into it. Our Leading Change TM programme is specifically designed to do this.
  • Building involvement through the use of change teams made up of key employees from across the organisation. Using a skilled facilitator to support the work of these teams can radically improve their effectiveness.
  • Embedding change processes into other organisational routines via regular, leader-led conversations to help naturalise the change. TakeON! is a programme we use to help clients to do this.


If you identify with these challenges, get in touch and we would be happy to discuss how we can support you.