The answer to this rhetorical question is – no.
The question is the title for a paper that I had published in 2011 in the Journal of Change Management 11(4): 451-464.
I had been troubled by academic claims that organizational change tended to fail, which was being substantiated by apparent research from Harvard Business School that 70% of organizational changes failed. It is gratifying that at the time of writing, this paper has been downloaded 15,524 times.
A 70 per cent failure rate is frequently attributed to organizational change initiatives, raising questions about the origins and supporting evidence for this very specific statistic. This article critically reviews five separate published instances identifying a 70 per cent organizational change failure rate. In each instance, the review highlights the absence of valid and reliable empirical evidence in support of the espoused 70 per cent failure rate. Organizational change research and scholarship now exists which enables us to question the belief in inherent organizational change failure rates. Inherent failure rates are critically questioned in terms of the ambiguities of change, the context-dependent nature of change, competing perceptions, temporal aspects and measurability. In conclusion, whilst the existence of a popular narrative of 70 per cent organizational change failure is acknowledged, there is no valid and reliable empirical evidence to support such a narrative.
If you have online access to academic journals the full published paper may be downloaded here:
Access to the Final Draft of the Paper
I have always been keen to engage with organizational change practitioners, after all it is your practice which we are studying and writing about. In this spirit, I have uploaded to this post the final draft of the paper that was accepted for publication after being reviewed.