Academic Notebooks Organization Theory Organizational Change

Did I Really Claim that Organizational Change Tends to Fail? (Notebook No.3)

A reflection on citations attributing claims that organizational change tends to fail to me.

Business school academics frequently and repeatedly claim that organizational change tends to fail.  Addressing these ‘failures’ informs university leadership and management courses for students and consultancy for organizations. Perversely I am now referenced as the missing change tends to fail ‘evidence’.

This Notebook reflects my increasingly paranoid scream!!!

Did I really claim that organizational change tends to fail? (Cover)
Did I really claim that organizational change tends to fail? (Cover)

The Chapters

In this third and final Notebook in this series, Chapter One sets the scene and connects with the first two Notebooks. Understanding depictions today of organizational change as tending to fail requires an appreciation of the historical evolution – a chronology of framing organizational change failure over decades features in Chapter Two.

A special issue of a prestigious academic journal, themed around organizational change failure, is this Notebook’s focus. There are reviews and commentary on the contributions in Chapter Three and the guest editorial in Chapter Four. The contributions and editorial make a significant contribution to understanding organizational change failure. I am referenced as claiming organizational change tends to fail on four occasions, and these instances are highlighted. Chapter Five takes the form of a discussion, offering four explanations; innocent misunderstanding, association fallacy, confirmation bias and impression management.

Chapter Six draws this Notebook to a conclusion reflecting on the writing process and further potential dissemination. An awkward question has featured in all three Notebooks, why have organizational changes been depicted as tending to fail? The Notebook subtitle captures my succinct answer. Finally, I believe that erroneous depictions of organizational change failure have implications for universities, organizations and societies.  The debates featured here were never purely academic; they have enormous practical importance.

AppendixThe Graveyard of Disappointed Hope features a conference paper where I question the gap-filling fetish of academics.  These three Notebooks have been my attempt instead to challenge sacred academic assumptions.

Accessing Notebook No.3

This Notebook and the other two are available on the Amazon self-publishing platform in paperback format. I enjoyed being a publisher – cover design, proof reading, layout etc. The Notebook even sold a few copies, which was a pleasant bonus. Alternatively, if you would like a digital copy of the draft please contact me using the Contact page.


Hughes, M. (2011) Do 70 per cent of all organizational change initiatives really fail?” Journal of Change Management 11(4): 451-464.

Schwarz, G.M., Bouckenooghe, D. and Vakola, M. (2021) Organizational change failure: Framing the process of failing. Human Relations, 74(2): 159-179.