Leaders: You Can’t Really Manage Change

Change Ahead

During a recent project that involved whole scale transformation of a client’s system to manage, hire, compensate, reward and recognize, 65% of their employees are who drive their profitability.

The concept of managing change really is a fallacy.

Traditional Change 

There are many statistics indicating that traditional change management is only successful in approximately 30% – 15% of all projects. With all of the money, time, and effort put into change, it is hard to believe that it is so “badly managed”.

The fatal flaw in our traditional approach, sometimes referred to as the LaMarsh approach, is that change is viewed as an event.

Traditional Change Management’s design is to push an organization through to the other side of an issue, problem or event – It’s as if we are saying:

But the truth is there is no there.

Change is Inevitable

Change is constant.  Once the organization makes it through one change, there is another.

The end state is not the end of the change but the beginning.


Two Important Things to Remember:

  • Change viewed as “an event that must be completed and then things will go back to normal” is daunting and causes fatigue.
  • Change viewed as a constant evolution moving from one change to the next does not seem so daunting (and could be exciting).


It will still be tough. There will be some natural resistance, but if change is viewed as a constant, resistance will eventually become much lower.

If organizations are anticipating and prepared for change, there will be no surprise change event.   No one in the organization will be shocked about changing because they know that it is constantly happening.

Moving to “Optimizing Evolution”

1. Acknowledge that change is inevitable

It is imperative that leaders communicate that change is a constant occurrence within the organization. Due to globalization, technology, and competition, there is no organization that can survive without looking at both success now,  and what will enable future success.

2. Establish “Organizational Evolution” teams

Organizations need to establish central teams that are dedicated to anticipating and enabling change throughout the organization. Similar to an internal audit function, a “central evolution team” will increase the likelihood that the organization will not be surprised when there is a new government regulation, technology, or competitor.

Internal audit plays a vital role in making sure that the organization is what is should be so when a real audit occurs there are no surprises and no detrimental findings. In the same vein, a “central evolution team” will work to be aware of issues, challenges, and opportunities.

Being prepared will take the sting out of big changes.

3. Moving away from trying to “manage change”

The fundamentals of the primary models that have been used over the past quarter-century to “manage change” are still valid. It’s important to continue to use them.

Utilize internal resources, which not only have the most at stake, but also understand the current system better than anyone else, as the “Core Evolution Teams”.  Allow them to leverage a “weave” methodology.

In its simplest form:

Of course it is necessary to have training and communication embedded within the process, but that is nothing new.

4. Educate the organization

Critical Step: Education around this new mindset of change – organizational transformation or evolution optimization. In order for everyone to accept that change is constant, it’s important there is understanding it will be looking for opportunities to transform and improve all the time.

Each person in the organization must view themselves as change agents, actively seeking out better ways to do their jobs.

Employees have to be given some latitude to alter the way that they do things to improve performance, customer experience, or increase profit, and of course there will need to be checks and balances.

Become an Agent of Change

If everyone in your organization views themselves as an agent of change, when its time to change and transform, there will be less resistance and more buy-in and support.

There is no silver bullet to successful change. It is unacceptable that 70 and 85 percent of all change initiatives fail.  It is vital that a new way to make organization’s change is resilient.

Are you ready to leverage and embrace opportunities to become more efficient, effective and profitable? I’d love to hear your thoughts!


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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

Anil Saxena
 is a President & Senior Consultant Cube 214 Consulting
He helps organizations create environments that generate repeatable superior results
Email | LinkedIn | Web | Blog | (847) 212-0701

Image Sources: blog.atos.net

4 responses to “Leaders: You Can’t Really Manage Change

  1. Hello Anil. Love the phrasing “Organizational Evolution” and many of your other points resonated with me also.

    I would suggest tho that while it might seem true that “you can’t really manage change” the alternative is worse, i.e. not managing change. It has been my own experience that Leaders who commit to really understanding the nature of change can optimize results through proven approaches (this usually begins with acknowledging the difference between transitional and transformational change). This is an extraordinary strategic and competitive advantage.

    Many thought leaders have been working on this for decades – you might find Daryl Conner’s work on the “nimble organization” useful – he has a blog post on it here http://changethinking.net/category/nimble-organizations. As a bread crumb, he addressed two levels: environment (leadership, culture and roles) and application (portfolio and implementation). And there is much more in his “Leading at the Edge of Chaos: How to Create the Nimble Organization”, John Wiley & Sons, 1998 (the blog reflects some of the highlights and innovations to the concepts since the book was published).

    Happy to discuss off line if you like – gail.severini@connerpartners.com

    Thanks for a great post that really got my brain thinking along the lines of organizational capability. Too often clients want to focus on a particular strategic initiative and we always wish they would invest more deeply in retaining and building out organizational robustness.


    • Gail – Thanks so much for the reply. I agree that you can’t just “let change happen” but the traditional methods, practiced as they are currently, are not effective. You are correct that leaders must commit to following through and understanding that transactional changes are not really “just one change discrete change”. I believe that there is no discrete change or transactional change. Since organizations are like organisms, one action in a part has an affect on the whole. Thanks for the mention of Conner’s work. I enjoyed that book a lot too.


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