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Why change fails: knowledge counts

Marvin Washington (Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas, USA)
Marla Hacker (Oregon State University, Cascades, Bend, Oregon, USA)

Leadership & Organization Development Journal

ISSN: 0143-7739

Article publication date: 1 July 2005




This paper aims to examine the relationship between managers' understanding of a specific organizational change process and their attitudes towards implementing the change.


After a review of the current literature on the link between organizational change, knowledge of the change, and attitudes towards implementing the change, limited research was found that examined the relationship between knowledge of change and resistance to change. Then original empirical research was conducted by administering a survey to 296 managers from the Botswana Government.


The results of the regression models suggest that managers who understand the change effort are more likely to be less resistant to change. Specifically, the more a manager understood the change, the more likely they were to be excited about the change, the less likely that they would think the change effort would fail, and the less likely they were to state that they wished their organization had never implemented the change.

Research limitations/implications

The major limitation of our research is that the data are self‐reported. The managers themselves rated their knowledge of the change and their resistance or lack of resistance to the change. However, because the question is one where social desirability bias (a major concern of self‐reported data) would lead to no variance (all managers should have said that they understood the change) and the self‐report bias is minimal. The research implications are that a link between knowledge of the organizational change has been found, and resistance to change, adding to the literature on why individuals resist change.

Practical implications

The practical implications is that senior managers need to focus more on developing checks to ensure that managers understand the change program and the implications of the change program as a way of ensuring that they, and their subordinates, understand the change program.


The value of the study is that it is one of the first studies to empirically show a link between knowledge of change and resistance to change. The originality of the study is the dataset (managers from the public sector in Botswana) and the application (managers attempting to implement total quality techniques in a large‐scale bureaucracy).



Washington, M. and Hacker, M. (2005), "Why change fails: knowledge counts", Leadership & Organization Development Journal, Vol. 26 No. 5, pp. 400-411.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2005, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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