Buy our book here.

changeChange is an all-pervading feature of the organisational world, paradoxically a permanent fixture that will retain its continuous flux in future times. As Tomasi di Lampedusa wrote in his classic book ‘The Leopard’ (1958), even for things to remain the same, “everything needs to change “.

 

To managers, including senior accountants, managing change is second nature. Once one change project is finished, the next can frequently begin immediately, if not overlapping. Plus, there’s no shortage of encouragement and assistance to implement organisational change, for example via external consultants and training companies (usually at a significant cost).

 

A browse through ‘airport’ business and management books might give the impression that there are many tools, techniques and methods out there which, if implemented, can quickly bring you success. But, there are also many case studies which convey stories of failure in change implementation.

 

Such failures can have considerable ramifications (e.g., company closure), even when a change originally is believed by its leaders to be a ‘simple’ project.

 

However, failures do not necessarily come about because the new tool, technique or method (including new management) is necessarily flawed but rather because the change leaders underestimated complexities of a change setting.

 

Most failures that I have observed in my research have fallen flat due to insufficient grasp before change implementation of the ‘deeper’ aspects of the setting where change will take place.

 

For instance, I once observed a change programme collapse because its leader(s) failed to pre-empt the level of resistance from powerful organisational actors.

 

In another case, a simple new budgeting tool failed to penetrate a particular department because the change leadership was anonymous, and there was a departmental culture that ‘doesn’t do budgeting’.

 

In these and many more cases, it was not the technical (i.e., management accounting) change per se that failed. Rather, it was shortfalls and oversight in planning the change programme.

 

It is with these examples in mind that the reader should heed against any unchallenged assumption that quick-fix, technically-oriented change will bring inevitable success.