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Why Change Is So Difficult

1968 by Bruce Henderson
  • Bruce Henderson
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  • All organizations must adapt to changes in their environment, or die. All organizations do change when put under sufficient pressure.

  • The forces of corporate culture are set against change. Yet the rewards can be substantial for those who anticipate and manage the change required.


Success in the past always becomes enshrined in the present by the over-valuation of the policies and attitudes which accompanied that success. As long as the environment and competitive behavior do not change, these beliefs and policies contribute to the stability of the firm.

However, with time these attitudes become embedded in a system of beliefs, traditions, taboos, habits, customs, and inhibitions which constitute the distinctive culture of that firm. Such cultures are as distinctive as the cultural differences between nationalities or the personality differences between individuals. They do not adapt to change very easily.

These characteristics are deep-seated and difficult to change. Frequently, this means that the organization becomes the prisoner of its own past success. Such individual characteristics become so much a part of the firm that any effort to change them is quite likely to be viewed as an attack upon the organization itself.