Why Change Programs Don’t Produce Change

by Michael Beer, Russell A. Eisenstat, and Bert Spector

IN THE MID-1980S, THE NEW CEO of a major international bank—call it U.S. Financial—announced a companywide change effort. Deregulation was posing serious competitive challenges—challenges to which the bank’s traditional hierarchical organization was ill-suited to respond. The only solution was to change fundamentally how the company operated. And the place to begin was at the top.

The CEO held a retreat with his top 15 executives where they painstakingly reviewed the bank’s purpose and culture. He published a mission statement and hired a new vice president for human resources from a company well-known for its excellence in managing people. And in ...

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