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Breaking the Fad-Failure Cycle

David Straker

-- The pattern of failure -- The four pressures --
-- Breaking the cycle -- And so the cycle repeats --

-- Print friendly one-page --


There is a pattern of failure within many businesses where honest attempts to implement new approaches repeatedly fail. Studies of unsuccessful attempts to implement TQM, Reengineering and other failures regularly come up with the depressing figure that around 80% of all such efforts fail.

The pattern of failure

The patterns of failure are so common that the following mock-process has been doing the rounds for years. We laugh and feel uncomfortable because it is tragically familiar to many of us.


 1. Enthusiasm for the goal.
 2. Disillusionment with the progress.
 3. Search for the guilty.
 4. Persecution of the innocent.
 5. Praise for the non-participants.


Why does this happen? The answer is hinted at in this process, and can be explained further by four pressures that act on managers who, like everyone else, simply do their best to handle these forces on them. The result of these pressures is a cycle of fads and failures.

Figure 1. The Fad-Failure Cycle


For companies to break out of this destructive spiral requires two things to happen. The first step is simply to recognise what is happening, and the primary aim of this paper is to help this realisation. The second step is to break this ‘Vicious Cycle’ as it is sometimes called, and replace it with a ‘Virtuous’ one.

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