Four Key Factors for Successful Change

As part of my graduate studies (aiming for a Master’s of Science in Executive Leadership from University of San Diego’s School of Business), I have been a student in a class called “Leading People Through Change.” As a coach, I am an advocate for change. A large part of what we do in coaching is support people as they lead and move through change.

As a leader, I am humbled by the mistakes I have made in getting others to follow my change initiatives. Even though as a coach I support people through individual change, as a leader I support change at the organizational level.

Individual change is difficult. Organizational change is almost impossible and more often than not, fails.

Do you have any changes you are currently working on in your organization? Do you have one you are about to launch? Are you having success? If not, I challenge you to sit back and reflect on why you are not getting the results you want or expect from changes you are trying to implement. Throughout the class I was exposed to some great thought leaders on change, including John Kotter, Chip & Dan Heath, Daryl Conner, Jeffrey Hiatt and our facilitators, Dr. Patricia Zigarmi and Robert Glaser.

After all the reading and discussions, at the end of my class, I sat down and synthesized what I need to remember when facilitating the changes needed in my organization:

Create the Business Case – Some vital questions include:

  1. What is the gap between where we are today and the result we need tomorrow?
  2. Why do we have to change?
  3. What is in it for me?
  4. What is in it for the business?
  5. What will happen if we don’t change?

 There needs to be a sense of urgency that drives people to take action.

Involve People in the Change – Easily the biggest take away from this class, is to involve others. Regarding change, the old saying, “none of us is as smart as all of us” is true. When managing change, don’t expect to hold all the answers. Involve people, including the resisters, advocates and key stakeholders, who will help you create the questions, the answers and pave the path for change.

Pay Attention to the Advocates for Change – The advocates are your best sales people for change. Advocates are often ignored and under-utilized because we take them for granted. They can best address those people who are not on board. Remember to leverage your advocates, and be sure to reward them when they speak and walk the change.

Create the Environment for Change. This has always been a strong belief of mine, and, I often forget it. Creating the environment includes:

  1. Building a strong infrastructure for change
  2. Walking the talk by being a role model for change
  3. Creating a visible and attractive rewards system.

The change will have a higher likelihood of success if the environment supports people doing things differently. If the environment does not constantly encourage and nurture the change, people are going to have trouble doing things differently.

I am working on a few changes at work and this class has me stepping back to assess how I can do a better job at creating the business case, involving people, working with my advocates and creating the environment to support the changes I am leading. If you are expected to be a leader of change, try them too.

6 thoughts on “Four Key Factors for Successful Change

  1. Hey Joni – It’s great to see you identifying the key learnings we had in mind for the weekend. It’s a brilliant recap of our core messages. Thanks for sharing it with me. Pat

  2. One thing that I was taught during a seminar on change management was that, as a leader, you are usually 6 months to a year ahead of the rest of the people in your company. As a result, you have been living with the change that is to come for that time. You have had a chance to get used to the idea, help shape what it will look like, and buy-in to the concept. The people you lead have not. So we have to give them time to catch up and to do all the things that we have spent the last year doing. We often forget this as leaders. We can’t expect people to do, in a short amount of time, what we had lots of time to do.

  3. Change is inevitable, yet, people resist it, because they feel comfortable where they are today. They have paid what it takes, and put the time needed to get to the steady, stable state they are at.

    When change comes, it requires people to change their habits, their own way of doing things and move away from their comfort zone, which could be a source of pain to a lot of people.

    For us to change, I believe we need to not only know, and see what’s in it for us, (which of course is a strong motive to move foreword), but as well learn how to move, and feel comfortable moving foreword.

    To feel comfortable with the change, we need assurances that we will not experience pain as we take the steps ahead.

    Change is a journey towards a new state of life, throughout which a lot needs to happen.

    People need support, motivation, learning and assurance for a smooth, trouble free journey.

  4. This was a great reminder of some basics of change management, which I know I sometimes forget to apply. I would also add “be persistent” to the list, as people often need to hear the new idea multiple times before they understand.
    I would also say that I don’t try too hard to make change painless. In my business school classes on change (I’m also in an Leadership Executive MBA), it was pointed out that any change involves loss and that you need to acknowledge and allow people to experience that loss so they can move on.

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