Strategy Perspective Blog Posts: 2011

Communicating an Organizational Change

December 20th, 2011

Communicating ChangeEffective communication is always a “two-way street,” and communicating about change is no exception. Delivering a clear message is a good start. Taking time to understand how employees hear the message and ideas or concerns they have turns a clear message into communication. Seek employee feedback. Read more on

Tags: Communication, Leadership

Beyond Compliance to Commitment and Alignment

November 18th, 2011

fostering commitmentIt is tempting to believe that the forcing employees to comply with the demands of a new change initiative is an efficient tactic. Enforced with “do it, or else!” is unlikely to create enthusiasm for a change. Managing change by leveraging employees’ who are committed to the initiative while aligning tools, processes, rewards and leadership to the change is more effective and engages employees. Read more at on my blog on including an example of applying these ideas to a Six Sigma program at Xerox Corporation.

Tags: commitment, engagement

Using Systems Thinking to Break a Vicious Cycle

October 21st, 2011

Well-meaning decision makers have been known to look for the fastest, cheapest fix to a pressing problem. While a quick fix may treat the symptoms, it seldom addresses the underlying problem. Please check out my latest blog post on to read how the systems thinking archetype, “Shifting the Burden” can break the cycle of overusing quick fixes.


The blog post includes a an example of a manufacturing company that broke through this cycle to a successful change. Read More→

Tags: Systems Thinking, Breaking a Cycle

Is Resistance Futile?

September 28th, 2011

Listen to ResistersListening and to resisters’ constructive concerns about a change initiative can make a big difference in implementation. It requires articulate explanations and honest and open attention from change leaders.

Read more on covert and overt resistance and an example where listening to a resister had a positive result on Please read and comment→

Tags: listening, resistance

Support Peer-to-Peer Advocates for Effective Change

August 29th, 2011

Leadership and FollershipRecommendations from respected co-workers can be powerful because colleagues understand how work gets done in our organization. When these recommendations are backed by unambiguous, supportive leadership, it becomes a recipe for change management with a successful track record. There is more on my blog at

The Change, Dialogue, and Action workshop provides a complete framework for leveraging Peer-to-Peer Advocates to implement change.

Tags: Leadership, Peers-to-peer

A Systems Thinking Example

July 26th, 2011

Systems ThinkingFocusing on the pressing problem and ignoring potential side-effects is an invitation to unintended and unforeseen consequences in the future. Please check out my July 2011 blog post on It is about using techniques from systems thinking to balance short-term responses to immediate problems considerations of potential side-effects over the longer-term.

It gives an example of a simple system diagram that helps people to move away from a static dichotomous debate to a dynamic discussion of options. Read more→

Tags: balance, systems thinking

Leadership and Collaboration Yield Commitment

June 23rd, 2011

CollaborationPlease check out my June 2011 blog post on, for what I learned over coffee from retired fire chief. It never ceases to amaze me how ubiquitous issues with change management can be in different settings.

The post talks about the importance of taking a step back for a more holistic, systemic view of leading change. It explains how more collaboration can lead to more commitment to implementing an organizational change. Please read and comment→

Tags: alignment, decision making

Organizations Can Only Change if The People in Them Change

May 25th, 2011

textMy May 2011 blog post on is about the two major factors affecting organizational change: manager’s decisions and actions and employees’ attitudes. Leveraging the knowledge and enthusiasm of employees who support the change initiative demands strong, supportive leadership, whose decisions and actions provide the direction and tools that enable employees not only to apply the initiative, but also to engage their peers in using and improving it. Together manager’s decisions and actions and employees’ attitudes can make the difference between success or failure implementing change. Read on→

Tags: leadership, involving employees

Organizational Change is about People Changing

April 21st, 2011

The previous two blog posts described the four categories that people can fall into, at any given time, with respect to their attitude toward an organizational change. They went into a bit more detail on two of these categories: Advocates and Apathetics. The goal for change leadership is to engage people: that is, to move them from being apathetic about an initiative to having the enthusiasm to advocate it. This transformation in attitude cannot happen overnight.

The first step is information. Employees need to know about the change program, the reasons behind it and the goals it is expected to achieve. This could happen through formal, top-down methods such as organization-wide announcements or through informal discussions with Advocates. (In a later blog, I discuss the relative effectiveness of these methods.) People who get this information can just ignore it—after all the likelihood of a change succeeding is fairly low—or they could begin to think about it. Just considering and weighing the change and how it might work turns former Apathetics into a third category of people, Incubators.

Both Everett Rogers and William Bridges* discuss what happens during the incubation process. Rogers emphasizes the rational aspects and Bridges stresses the psychological. Rogers says that people use information make a to make a tentative adoption decision, which is followed by informal testing before accepting or rejecting the change. Bridges has found that people need to go through three psychological phases before they fully commit to a change: letting go, neutral zone, and new beginning. People need time to go through these phases before they can really accept a new change. Whether people are rationally evaluating a change or internally processing the consequences—or both—it takes time. In other words, before fully getting on board, people spend time as Incubators of the change.

It is important to remember that neither the decision steps described by Rogers, nor the psychological process described by Bridges happens in a vacuum. Change leadership affects every step by showing confidence in the change. Good leaderships requires engaging employees in the change by making the case for it clear, making sure that the change is properly budgeted and needed infrastructure is in place, and rewarding behaviors consistent with the change.

*See: Everett Rogers Diffusion of Innovations, William Bridges Managing Transitions.

Tags: Organizational Change

Understanding Attitudes toward Change

April 11th, 2011

The Tipping Point model draws on four attitudes toward a change that employees may have at any particular time. These are not permanent or personality characteristics, they are attitudes that can be influenced by the change itself and by management’s implementation of it. To understand how to address employees’ expectations or their angst, it is useful to group people according to their attitude toward the change.

We can think of employees as falling into four categories, based on these four attitudes. Apathetics feel disconnected from the change initiative. Incubators are thinking whether the initiative will work in their organization’s culture or how it might affect them personally. Advocates understand how the change will work or have experience with it and are infected with enthusiasm for it. Resisters have concerns about the initiative, which could be legitimate, constructive or stem from fear or cynicism.

At the beginning of a change, few employees understand the problem it addresses or why it is necessary for the organization’s future. They understand their own jobs and the skills that they bring, but they may not see the bigger picture driving the company to make a change. It is not surprising that initially most employees can be categorized an Apathetics.

Unfortunately indifference persists, and the reasons are fairly clear. Change initiatives often start out with a big announcement of pending improvements. However, to employees who have seen promised improvements turn into unsupported slogans these announcements can feel like “déjà vu all over again.” In fact, research shows that the failure rate for organizational change initiatives is between 50% and 85%*. So the logical position for an employee to take is “wait and see.” It is the role of good change leadership to ensure that employees understand that the change must and will succeed. This means making the case for change clear and involving and rewarding employees at all levels.

*There is more on the success rate of organizational changes in Creating Contagious Commitment.

Tags: employee engagement, influence, leadership

Leveraging Advocates of Change

March 30th, 2011

It is not unusual for management to be advised that they need to get wide “buy in” for an organizational change before beginning its implementation. Before it is put into operation, the change is really just an idea—an idea about getting work done better or faster or cheaper. Getting people behind an idea can really be a challenge. Employees need a more than clear understanding of the change and how it will affect them. They need to see the change in action.

This is not to say no advance buy in is needed. There are always some early adopters*. These should include leaders who by virtue of their position fully understand the challenge or threat that the initiative is designed to address, and they should be able to clearly explain how the initiative will address the challenge at hand. In addition there are always visionaries. In addition, no matter what their position, there are employees who can just see how a new program will work and are eager to get on board.

Effective change implementation leverages those early adopters and turns them into Advocates for the change. It takes attention and leadership. Create pilots or test programs to make sure they get real experience with the change. Provide the tools that they need to properly implement it. Notice and reward them for using the tools and taking risks to make the change initiative better. With this experience, they can explain and advocate the change to their peers. This peer-to-peer advocacy is a powerful way to spread enthusiasm for an organizational change.

*Early Adopters is a term coined by Everett Rogers in his seminal work Diffusion of Innovations

Tags: change management, attitudes

Creating Contagious Commitment eBook

March 23rd, 2011

An eBook version of Creating Contagious Commitment is now available.

It is very easy to have good intentions, and even easier to get advice from someone who has good intentions. What is hard is to recognize the landmines on the path to successful change. Creating Contagious Commitment helps identify and think about such obstacles before we encounter them, making the path to change more thoughtful and ultimately more successful. —Dan Ariely, Ph.D., James B. Duke Professor of Behavioral Economics, author Predictably Irrational
Highly recommended reading for the Leadership Academy:…Creating Contagious Commitment by Andrea Shapiro Cabrillo College.

Tags: eBook

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