Research Findings on Program Failure and Success (Part 2)
Why Programs Fail or Succeed
This is a 3-part series on the factors that cause programs to succeed or fail. Last week we saw that only 1/3rd of change initiatives succeed—regardless of sector. This week we will look at reasons for failure and success synthesized from the literature on organizational change. Next week, we will apply what we’ve discovered to men’s ministry.
Why Programs Fail…
- PERCEPTION: If the problem addressed or the solution offered doesn’t resonate, then the program will not work. [non-dissonance—the problem doesn’t create a tension to resolve; non-resonance—the solution doesn’t resonate] (Rogers, 1995, p. 181). This can happen because of strong beliefs that can’t be overcome, public reactions, or unintended consequences (Rogers, pp. 400, 405, Senge, 1999).
- TOP MANAGEMENT: The program doesn’t have the support of top management. Research has shown that a transformational leader who gains the support of the senior management team is a crucial factor to successfully implement and sustain an a change program and, when absent, spells doom for the program (LeBrasseur et al., 2002).
- TOP MANAGEMENT: Conversely, if the program is merely a top-down, packaged program that doesn’t adequately engage people throughout the organization it will also fail.
- REALITY: The program doesn’t address “real” problems facing the organization.
- FEAR: A culture of trust is not fostered so fear persists (Senge).
- RESOURCES: They are not properly resourced with time, money, and/or people
- TRAINING: Training is not provided
- RESISTANCE: For the above reasons, the change initiative is resisted by managers, supervisors, adversary groups (Yin, 1978, p. 55), and others. Also, if several previous programs have failed, this tends to inoculate employees against change initiatives (Beer, Eisenstat, & Spector, 1990, p. 41).
- EFFICACY: The program doesn’t work (Pluye et al., 2004).
- SUSTAINABILITY: The problem for many innovations is not that they don’t work, but that the organization cannot figure out how to implement and sustain the innovations as an organizational change (Repenning, 2002, p. 109). What is sustainability? Sustainability is the process by which a new idea or innovation becomes adopted, implemented, adapted, and normalized in an organization. Synonyms for sustainability abound. Johnson, Hays, Center, and Daley (2004) found eleven terms used to describe the continued use of an innovation. Sustainability and institutionalization were used most often. Other synonyms include confirmation, continuation, durability, routinization, stabilization, critical mass, integration, adoption, and sustained use.
Why Programs Succeed…
- A CHAMPION: The change initiative has a champion who builds support and assembles the necessary people, skills, training, and resources.
- A PLANNING PROCESS: There is a planning process that involves the right people (Ansoff and McDonnell, 1990, p. 428).
- TOP MANAGEMENT SUPPORT: Top management offers continuous commitment which creates an adequate foundation of support and power to implement and sustain the proposed change (Ansoff and McDonnell, p. 427, Senge).
- KEY SUPPORT: Implementers gain the support of opinion leaders, top officials, groups likely to adopt (Rogers, pp. 281, 326). Innovators and early adopters support the program. This results in enough power to effect change.
- CAPABILITIES: Change agents build organizational capabilities (people, budget, time, and training) to match the proposed change (Ansoff and McDonnell, p. 428).
- RESISTANCE: Behavioral and systemic resistance is managed (Ansoff and McDonnell, p. 418). Management creates a psychologically safe environment for people to explore and learn (Senge). Management creates climate and culture that overcomes organizational defense mechanisms (Argyris, 1990).
- ADAPTATION: Early shortcomings are addressed, adaptations made (Rogers, p. 394)
- EFFICACY: The program works over time (Pluye et al.).
- SUSTAINABILITY: The initiative becomes self-sustaining, reaching critical mass. The program becomes sustained/normalized as part of the organization’s routines (Rogers, pp. 313, 399)
Together in the Battle for Men’s Souls,
Ansoff, I. & McDonnell, E. (1990). Implanting strategic management. New York: Prentice Hall.
Argyris, C. (1990). Overcoming organizational defenses. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Beer, M., Eisenstat, R. A., & Spector, B. (1990). The critical path to corporate renewal. Cambridge: Harvard Business School Press.
Johnson, K., Hays, C., Center, H., & Daley, C. (2004). Building capacity and sustainable prevention innovations: a sustainability planning model. Evaluation and Program Planning, 27(2), 135-149.
LeBrasseur, R., Whissell, R., & Ojha, A. (2002). Organisational Learning, Transformational Leadership and Implementation of Continuous Quality Improvement in Canadian Hospitals. Australian Journal of Management, 27(2), 141.
Pluye, P., Potvin, L., & Denis, J.-L. (2004). Making public health programs last: conceptualizing sustainability. Evaluation & Program Planning, 27(2), 121-133.
Repenning, N. P. (2002). A simulation-based approach to understanding the dynamics of innovation implementation. Organization Science: A Journal of the Institute of Management Sciences, 13(2), 109-127.
Rogers, E. M. (1995). Diffusion of innovations (4th ed.). New York: The Free Press.
Senge, P. (1999). The dance of change. New York: Currency Doubleday.
Yin, R. K. (1978). Changing urban bureaucracies: how new practices become routinized. Santa Monica: The Rand Corporation.