Promising Practices Promising PracticesPromising Practices
A forum for government's best ideas and most innovative leaders.

Why You’re Failing to Change Your Organization (And How to Do It Better)


Listen to the story:

Download this episode | Subscribe on iTunes

According to author Gregory Shea, 75 percent of change initiatives fail. It’s seeking to understand why change fails--and how it can be done better--that drove Shea and co-author  Cassie Solomon to write their new book Leading Successful Change.

Shea recently talked with us on the Excellence in Government Podcast and discussed just why so many organizations fail to change their culture and get the results they want. The reason, he said? Behavior.

Shea argues that change lives at the behavioral level, not the 30,000 foot view of organizations where so many conversations occur. When leaders talk about cultural change, what they’re really talking about is people change--specifically, the behaviors and actions people exhibit changing.

“One of the things that’s been particularly striking [about organizations over the years] is the absence of conversational time,” said Shea. “Actually coming up with blocks of time get off the river to talk about what you’re going to do on the river. To actually create the time where you can say, ‘What are we trying to create here?’”

According to Shea, change begins with a vision. Painting a picture (sometimes literally) of actions that would occur if things were running in an ideal fashion. For instance, it’s not enough to say you want people to be proactive. Shea argues you need to get more specific, literally writing out scenes--like in a play--that you hope to see occuring in your organization.

“What would a scene that, if it unfolded, [your team] would say, ‘That’s exactly what I’m talking about! That’s it!’”

Listen to the Excellence in Government Podcast to hear more of Shea’s advice on how to lead successful change.

Mark Micheli is Special Projects Editor for Government Executive Media Group. He's the editor of Excellence in Government Online and contributes to GovExec, NextGov and Defense One. Previously, he worked on national security and emergency management issues with the US Treasury Department and the Department of Homeland Security. He's a graduate of the Coro Fellows Program in Public Affairs and studied at Drake University.

Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.