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    Leadership & Team Advisor

    Improving Leadership ROI through daily leadership and team development practices. Mark McCatty, Inc - Leadership & Team Advisor

    The Challenge for Change Remains the Same

    I was speaking with a group of non-profit leaders recently and we had a very interesting conversation about organizational change. From our discussions I learned that non-profit organizations have the very same struggles that other organizations have. These leaders shared some frustration with the fact that there is some hesitation to accept and adopt to change, even among those we would call engaged employees. This is the same frustrations I’ve heard for years  from leaders in manufacturing, financial institutions, and higher education/university work environments.

    There are two types of change that organizations deal with. The two types of change are planned change and emergent change. Planned change is top-down and mainly driven by management. While emergent change is bottom-up and comes mostly from employee levels.

    Planned change is compelled by a business need that the management structure observes. The management group decides that a change is required to support business values. These business values may be related to safety, productivity, customer satisfaction, quality, or budget/profit. The expectation is that the decided change must be implemented in order to achieve the desired positive outcome goals for the organization. The desire of management is that those responsible for implementing the change will understand, accept, and be fully devoted to carry-out the change initiative.


    Emergent change is driven from lower in the organization. The emergent change is a need that is observed by someone [or some group] when they realize that the status quo is no longer most appropriate. Emergent change, at this level, is driven by those lower in the organization while the change needs to be supported by those higher in the organization. Support from those at the top is needed because it’s those individuals that have the authority and capability to support the emergent change effort – or quickly kill it.

    The reality is that real, sustained change won’t happen until it is clearly understood by those involved, totally bought into because of its importance and significance, and the change is able to be fully implemented [with the capability/required skills & obstacles to successful implementation are recognized/removed] by those responsible to carrying out the change.

    Maxims of Change

    It is interesting to me that with both planed change and emergent change, both groups of people have the same desire. They each desire that the other groups – those with the power to implement or kill – will challenge, question, improve, and implement the best change possible. This exposes the maxims of change that all organizations face.

    There are 5 maxims of change:

    1. People do not resist change; they resist being changed!
    2. All major change events will leave some people unhappy
    3. All change events have three characteristics
    4. Change resistance is inverse to the volume and quality of communication
    5. Stakeholders always have questions and concerns about a major change initiative

    Let’s deal with the first 2 maxims. The first maxim [people do not resist change; they resist being changed] helps us understand the second axiom [in every change people will always be unhappy with something]. The key for change acceptance then is to recognize that successful change must not be focused on changing people, but rather on helping people to be part of the change.

    Typical Change Activities

    An important step to helping people feel a part of the change is found in the preparation steps for change. When change happens with people, and not to people, there is a greater willingness and receptivity for the change. Unfortunately, planned change [and emergent change, for that matter] frequently occurs with a “Father knows best” approach. Those left at the lower levels are left out of the change discussion. As a result there is very little understanding and acceptance for the change. It’s far better to implement a successful change effort, even if this requires a temporary delay.

    A typical list of activities for management leaders to undertake are:

    • Identify the major change issues that must be addressed
    • Develop a change management strategy, based on the diagnosis
    • Recommend team development interventions, if needed
    • Recommend leadership coaching, if needed
    • Help foster a collaborative climate for dealing with change issues
    • Reinforce the change by periodically collecting feedback, diagnosing gaps, designing corrective interventions, and communicating successes

    Whether the change is planned or emergent, organizational leaders can use these change activities to engage all those stakeholders that will make or break the change effort. The net result can be much less frustration with the lack of participation and a much greater change implementation. Leaders lead change.

    Mark McCatty, Leadership & Team Advisor


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    As a leadership and team advisor, I have helped numerous organizations, through speaker presentations, group training, and individual coaching, to meet the challenge of creating engaging and purposeful work environments. 

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