A persistent narrative has grown up over the years about why so many change efforts fail — or at least why they are harder than they need to be. It goes like this: A heroic leader is trying valiantly to change the organization, but he’s meeting with resistance. It comes from the layer of “permafrost” — aka long-serving middle managers. These managers are vital to the success of the change effort because they have to translate the new strategy into work streams and projects. But they’re not working fast enough or getting enough done.
Is this narrative true? Given the high rate and frequency of change failure in organizations, can all of it be blamed on lazy managers freezing up their organizations?
My latest research suggests there’s a different story — one in which the roles are reversed. When change efforts are failing, I lay the blame not on lazy