Change : Five Principles for Leading Organizational Change

Laura Ricci Supports Good People Doing Great Things

She focuses on increasing sales, and building teams capable of "monster growth." With several turn arounds in her portfolio, she has helped shape management teams and adjust leadership approach.

Laura's firm, 1Ricci LLC is based in Milwaukee Wisconsin, USA and she works primarily in the US and Canada. www.1Ricci.com is the firm's website.


I’m currently working with an organization that is facing challenges similar to those faced by a half dozen others I’ve worked with – how to successfully change behavior along with systems and processes.

Over the years, I’ve discovered five principles that are crucial to effectively leading organizational change:

Principle 1 : Every Organization is NOT Different

“You must understand…we’re different.” The first time I heard that, I believed it too, and I allowed objections based on that belief to delay necessary changes by nine months. Instead of forging ahead, I pursued compliance through consensus. I moved slowly. Fortunately for that organization, they were able to afford the delay.

The next client I worked with didn’t have the luxury of waiting. Market share was evaporating. And they had less than six months to avert layoffs. So I pushed through all the objections and resistance and installed the system they needed.

I learned that while some customizing always occurs, it’s never more than five percent of the finished change initiative. Don’t delay by entertaining the “we’re different” mindset. Find examples of others who faced similar circumstances and made the changes necessary to meet them. Find out how they did it - and then get going! Once the changes begin to work, you can tweak and adjust as needed.

Principle 2 : Do Not Require Compliance

People forced to change will find a way to sabotage the effort. Systems, processes and behavior are paths of thought in people’s minds, and you can’t take an inventory of how they’re thinking. You can only measure the results, making it difficult to see the early warning signals of failure.

So don’t keep your change plan a secret - but don’t require people to comply with your changes. Even when change is presented as optional, you still have plenty of resistance to deal with.

Principle 3 : Let the Lurkers and Naysayers Join the Party Quietly

People change their minds easier if they aren’t put in the position of having to take a public stand. Some organizations unveil their changes with great fanfare and then spotlight anyone who objects. That approach only provides a stage for the attention seekers who see an opportunity to derail the change effort. It also “sets their feet in concrete” - they become champions of their opinion and feel obligated to oppose you.

Don’t embarrass these folks by singling them out. Instead, ignore their outbursts and whines. Once the party is underway, make it easy for them to slip in quietly through the back door – and welcome them when they do !

Principle 4 : Wait For Your Knight to Arrive

Don’t target the group in most need of change or your most promising group. Rather, train your change agents and then wait for interested parties to raise their hands and come forward. There will always be people in enough pain or with enough ambition to try anything to succeed - they are your knights. And they needn't have shining armor.

Wait for just one or two individuals or groups who are ready to give your changes a try. Help them become successful, and watch the rest of your people follow!

Principle 5 : Make Your Knights Successful

Once the “early adopters” arrive, make sure they get everything they need to succeed. You’ll be at the beginning of a learning curve, so your first attempts need resources lavished on them.You can always trim later; quick wins are essential to the success of your efforts, so don’t be stingy.Throw everything at these early opportunities - failure is not an option.

The most expensive path to change is tiny incremental success that is unconvincing and delays universal adoption.When early successes happen, communicate them to everyone in the organization so the victories are obvious and convincing.

How Are Your Change Programs Going ?

Chances are you may be facing the challenges of making changes in your own organization. I’d welcome an opportunity to discuss what you’re experiencing and share some of the ways I can help you be successful.


© Copyright Laura Ricci, 2005

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