3 Potential Reasons ‘Why’ HR/People/Other Transformation Programmes Fail by Glenn Jones

A transformation programme of any magnitude is not one to be entered into lightly, especially given today’s focus on return on any investment, value add and the competition with other big-ticket items that companies want to focus on first.  Human Resources in the past as a function has been perceived as a place where you don't invest, however, this belief is entirely inaccurate especially around Recruitment, Retention and Redevelopment where the #HRness, User Experience (UX), Efficiency and Effectiveness and Technological advancements have and continue to be made.  

However, have you ever wondered why so many HR transformation programmes fail to deliver what they set out to do?  Here are three potential reasons why:

Programme Business Case and Blueprint

In an attempt to wow company boards and key stakeholders, most Programmes set themselves up for disaster by not having an ultra-clear written business case and blueprint.  Also, they over promise and under deliver the programme purely because they try to ‘boil the ocean’ with a massive remit instead of presenting a rationale and reasonable business case and clearly defined set of deliverables.  Furthermore, without having a clear blueprint of what's going to be built disables the programme governance in tracking to what should be created.  Sadly, this one area determines how HR is perceived and often, it is found that as a result of this, other HR initiatives, unfortunately, tend to be frowned upon in the future. 

The US Army has a saying:

"Prior Planning Prevents P*** Poor Performance."

The Wrong People Trying to do the Right Thing

With any programme, there is always a desire to do it well, however, with one eye on the budget and business case, the one trap that continues to be tripped is that the wrong people try to do the right thing, i.e. instead of looking for people who have undertaken the change before who knows what, how and when to do something, companies tend to use their internal people in an attempt to save money.  This is not a bad thing at all and executed rightly a blend of tried and tested people and businesspeople are the absolutely right approach, providing that it gives the internal company people the opportunity of developing and learning.  This may seem a strange thing to do, but the costs of doing something wrong and putting it right are often higher if things start to go wrong.  Also, consider the reputational damage to the function and the invariable impact on companies' people.

Selecting the Wrong 3rd Party

Linked to the second point above, this area can and should be broken down into two parts:

a) the 3rd Party itself and 

b) the team/people that the 3rd Party provides you for your programme.

3rd Party

Selection is a critical element of any new programme.  Invariably it is a 3rd Party that will be picked to partner with the programme that will set the programme up for success.  Unless of course, you are undertaking the programme with your specialized resource.  Most providers today, whether it is a Technology Partner, or a Service Partner will through the Procurement process, present the best answers and pricing that they can give.  However, if you are going through this process yourself, do ensure that you have the Operational People, i.e. the People that are going to work with you, in the process itself.  Also, through the contracting phase, ensure that all parties are clear about what is going to be delivered, to what standard (Key Performance Indicators, Service Level Agreements, etc.) and how.

3rd Party Team

Having the right people from the 3rd Party on the programme is an absolute essential. Make sure that these People have successfully deployed the type of programme that you are about to undertake more than once, have the right experience, knowledge and skills relevant for your change and if possible, within the sector that you are in.  Your programme should not be used as a guinea pig!


It is possible to successfully undertake an HR/People Transformation Programme if you construct the basic building blocks and tenants right at the start.  Above are just three areas that you need to be 100% clear to enable your Programmes to be put on the right path.  

As George Bernard Shaw said, "Success does not consist in never making mistakes but  in never making the same one a second time."


Glenn Jones is a Freelance HR Consultant, Global HR Director, People thought leader and author of "Human Resources Changes the World". Glenn is a freelance HR consultant and has worked with Bank of America, HSBC, Ecolab and Imperial Brands in multi-discipline strategic and operational roles across the world. Prior to this he was employed by Eversheds LLP, Accenture, Koorb (NZ) and E.ON as well as numerous other companies. He is working his way to his PhD, becoming a future CEO and evolving his HR consultancy business to ensure that he continually adds value to his clients, now and in the future. Glenn is passionate about coaching, Emotional Intelligence and company evolution. His desire is that this book changes the traditional approach to who becomes a CEO.