We frequently hear about failed projects that don’t deliver the change they were expected to.

So what goes wrong with change? Why does the grass grow back?

There are many statistics on the reasons for project failure. Up to 70% of companies have one failed project in the past year, only 64% meet their project goals, 49% of failure is due to the silo mentality. See more on the reasons for failure here.

As the saying goes, you can prove most things with statistics. Rather than dwell on failure in this post, I want to share my personal experience of what makes a project successful, and how to sustain that success.

For me, it’s all about people. Anyone impacted by the change should be closely engaged in making it happen. They need to believe in the reasons for change. This happens through introducing new skills, new behaviours and new processes. After all this is the essence – the definition – of change.


  • Appreciate that different skill sets are needed for creating change compared to sustaining change. Different people may therefore be needed to lead on sustaining the new normal
  • Ensure that skills are transferred from change practitioners to business teams. This gives them a deeper understanding of why this change was made, and the need to own the change
  • Make it clear their skills are for keeps and will be needed for future projects


  • From the outset, focus on team relationships, building confidence if needed. Introduce shared objectives and common purpose as a key team ethos
  • Acknowledge it take time to change old habits. Have early conversations about the need to sustain change, using new processes so people become used to the idea
  • Encourage a ‘have a go’ environment to drive understanding, commitment and ownership for sustaining change

Sustainment processes

  • Include continuous improvement responsibilities and skills into role profiles and performance agreements
  • Develop robust cost benefit analysis to baseline performance and to continue after the project ends as some benefits will take time to realise. Read more here
  • Introduce a light touch assurance processes to objectively measure how well change is being maintained. Read more here

And finally

For all these suggestions, it’s important to ensure people understand the principles and reasons for introducing the changes. Within that context, you can then afford them flexibility to develop what suits their particular situation and priorities. In summary, success and sustainment is down to taking people with you on the project.

About the author

Maureen Whyman is the owner of Lose the Box, a Business Improvement consultancy based in the East Midlands. They are specialists in Continuous Improvement, Lean Thinking, cultural and behavioural HR, Transformation and Change Management. They support leaders, managers, teams and individuals with Business Improvement, via coaching, training and on-site workshops.

Lose the Box consultants blend simple science with creative facilitation, getting people to work much more effectively together. Their unique approach ensures skills are transferred, achieving sustained efficiencies and measurable benefits for their clients. See testimonials here.

Please contact us on 07824 660 120 or for a no-obligation discussion if you think we could be of assistance. 

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