How Change Efforts Succeed


                  “I'll be here when you are ready, To roll with the changes” REO Speedwagon

Everything changes: technology, demographics, politics, economics, attitudes, language, customs, norms and expectations. What was thought of as impossible, landing a man on the moon, became passé fifty years ago. What the norm was five to ten years ago, isn’t any more.

What does the future hold? What guidance is there for navigating the inevitable? Below are some best practices for organizations to roll with the changes and set their workplace cultures up for success.


1. Establish and Maintain Sense of Urgency – Get on with it with one person driving. Management paralysis often comes from having too many managers and not enough leaders. Many times executives become paralyzed by the downside possibilities. They worry that they will be blamed for creating a crisis vs taking action. Pick a leader who will refuse to allow bureaucracy to derail needed changes and support them.

2. Create a Powerful Guiding Coalition – Support the lead driver. Ask that they share the rationale
for their decisions and how best to communicate that message to all who can hear it. Lead, follow or get out of the way. If there isn’t sufficient cultural mass to create a chain reaction, not much change will be taking place.

3. Get the Right Vision Not Just A Vison – The right vision says something that clarifies the direction in which an organization needs to move, ie get the organization out of non-value-added activities. In failed transformation efforts, we often find lots of plans, directives and programs, but no vision. If we can’t communicate the vision to someone in five minutes or less with understanding and interest, we do not have the right vison.

4. Walk the Vision – Leaders must “walk the talk” to drive major change. They intentionally
become a living symbol of the new corporate culture. During a visit to the NASA space center in 1962, President John F. Kennedy noticed a janitor carrying a broom. He interrupted his tour, walked over to the man and said, "Hi, I'm Jack Kennedy. What are you doing?" "Well, Mr. President," the janitor responded, "I'm helping put a man on the moon." No matter our roles, we are contributing to the larger shared vision within our organizations.

5. Remove Obstacles to the New Vision - Sometimes the obstacle to successful change initiative is the organizational structure itself. Sometimes it makes people choose between the new vision and their own self-interest. Perhaps worst of all are bosses who refuse to change and who make demands that are inconsistent with the overall effort. it is important all be treated fairly but action is essential, both to empower others and to maintain the credibility of the change effort.

6. Plan to Create Short-Term Wins – Successful change comes in “baby steps.” When it becomes clear that major change will take a long time, urgency levels can drop. Commitments to produce short-term wins help keep urgency levels up and force analytical thinking that can clarify or revise visions.

7. Declare Victory at the Right Time - Until changes sink deeply into a company’s culture, a process that can take five to ten years, new approaches are fragile and subject to regression. Instead of declaring victory too soon, leaders of successful change efforts use the credibility gained by short-term wins to incrementally tackle even bigger problems. It’s in the striving, not the arriving.

8. Anchor Changes in the Culture - In the final analysis, change sticks when it becomes “the way we do things around here,” when it seeps into the bloodstream of the culture. Until new behaviors are rooted in social norms and shared values, they are subject to degradation as soon as the pressure for change is removed.


Remember, successful change is a series of Unfreezing- Changing and Re-freezing. It may take quite a while to unthaw all the parts needed to pursue change, but it sure beats the heck out of freezer burn.

So, if you're tired of the same old story…. let's turn some pages!