Keys to Effective Change

“There is nothing more difficult to undertake, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success than change.” – John Maxwell, Developing the Leader Within You

Change is a constant part of business, and change will become a part of every managers roll at some point. Most managers deal with implementing change multiple times a year, or even more. One of the keys to making sure change efforts are successful is assessing the change readiness of an organization. This is the hidden predictor to how effective any change efforts is going to be. If an organization is ready for change, it is likely that change efforts will take root and be quite successful. On the other hand, many change efforts fail and this is often because the organization was not change ready. In the following paragraphs, two important subject areas will be explored. First, it is important for change leaders to understand what needs to be in place for change to be successful. Secondly, it is important for change leaders to understand what can be done to make an organization ready for change. If the following factors can be put in place and followed, organizations can expect an increase in the success rate of implementing change.

There are five objectives to address when attempting to ensure that organizational change will be effective. These objectives include candor, getting the right people on the field, respected leadership, intrinsic motivation, and identifying the untouchables. Each of these objectives is critical to change success. Without them, change efforts can fall drastically short of success, sometimes reaching utter failure. It should also be noted that these are not magic bullet solutions, nor are they neat and clean little programs or consulting packages. These all revolve around a culture and sustainable design. Each of these objectives must be cultivated within an organization over time.

Candor is critical. Every organization communicates something, but candor is a way of communication. Management guru Jack Welch writes, “I would call lack of candor the biggest dirty little secret in business”. Candor is simply the process of speaking the truth. It is saying what needs to be said, when it needs to be said. An organization that supports candor in conversation is an organization of leaders that speak up, say what needs to be said, and don’t get crucified for it. Candor gets more people in the conversation and generates speed by avoiding pointless reports, presentations, and paper work. There are millions of pie charts made every day to present numbers that people have already seen. These will be presented in a meetings that are too long, and will typically end with no real solutions. With candor, people speak up, loose the pie charts, and get down to business asking tough questions to get real results. Developing candor in an organization can be done simply by rewarding it, talking about it, and demonstrating. Candor is very important if change is to be successful, because people need to talk through the real issues and be honest about progress and road blocks. If employees keep honest information out of a conversation, an entire change process can be de-railed.

Along with candor, an organization must have the right people playing the field in the right positions. In fact, nothing matters more in winning at change than having the right people in the right spots. Noted author Jim Collins writes, “people aren’t your most important asset, the right people are”. When it comes to implementing change with success and achieving the greatest results, an organization must have the right people in the right key seats. A bad manager or disgruntled leader can completely deflate an organizational change opportunity. Senior leadership must take a close look at the staff that will be leading the change to assure that the right people are in the right spots and the wrong people are off the team. If senior leadership can create a place where the best people always have a seat on the bus, it will be so much easier to adapt to a changing world .

Thirdly, it is critical that the leadership within an organization is respected. People view change through the same lens they view the change agent. This is an incredibly critical point that is missed over and over again. Success and failure in change depends not only on the ability of leadership to lead, but also on the perception and reputation of leadership. If the leadership of an organization is well respected, than change efforts will often be well received and treated with respect. On the other hand, if management is viewed very negatively by employees, than change will often be viewed through the same negative frame of mind. Along with the view of leadership, motivation is also a critical piece to success in change. If an organization is intrinsically motivated, supporting a culture that motivates people to better themselves and the company, than change will have a much greater success level.  Creating a culture of motivation and energy is critical to success. If organizations provide there people with autonomy and opportunities for mastery, than an intrinsic motivation will bubble up and drive change for future success. This intrinsic heartbeat for growth – this passion for excellence and progress – can propel even the most difficult change efforts to success.

Finally, ensuring the core beliefs remain unchanged and untouchable is key to change success. There are some things about a company that must remain intact. Attempting to change them will not only lead to failure in change, but can lead to failure of the entire company. Stimulating progress is essential, but preserving the core of company beliefs is just as essential. Attempting to change these core beliefs will almost always end in either failure of change or failure of the entire company. Every organization should have a mission statement and set of core values that are so concrete they slap you in the face. Hold these truths as gold – never allowing them to be changed or let go. This mission statement is the guiding light, and the values are the very culture of the company.

Although each of these items above is essential to seeing success in change, there are also steps that companies should take to prepare the organization for an upcoming change. Figure one is a list of items to implement that help an organization become more change ready.


Figure 1, Change Ready Actions


In conclusion, it is critical that leaders do what is needed to ensure the success of change initiatives. By ensuring that the above objectives are met, and the above steps are implemented from figure one, the chance of success in change can be significantly increased. Change can be difficult, but its not as much of an enigma as many may make it. Change can be done successfully if it is implemented well into the right environment.


Fore more information, check out these resources that where references in this post:

-Collins, J. (2002). Built to Last: successful habits of visionary companies. New York, NY: -HarperCollins.
-Collins, J. (2001). Good to great. New York, NY: HarperCollins.
-Heath, D., & Heath, C. (2010). Switch: how to change things when change is hard. New York, NY: Crown Publishing.
-Hybels, B. (2009). Courageous leadership. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
-Luecke, R. (2003). Managing change and transition. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.
-Pink, D. (2009). Drive. New York, NY: Penguin Group.
-Welch, J. (2005). Winning. New York, NY: HarperCollins.


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