Toward a Culture of Change

“Without change there is no innovation, creativity, or incentive for improvement.  Those who initiate change will have a better opportunity to manage the change that is inevitable.”

                                                                                                                            ~ William Pollard

Why are some organizations more capable of change than others?  Are organizations that are better at changing also more successful with their change projects?

A study among 134 German companies demonstrated that prior success with change initiatives positively influenced the performance of change projects.[i]  In other words, success breeds success.  Furthermore, companies with a poor track record with change initiatives created structures and cultures that resulted in even more resistance to change. Therefore, no matter the type of change – anticipatory, responsive or crisis – prior success or failure with change initiatives will have an effect on future change projects.[ii]

To build capacity for change, four keys emerge:

  • Carefully select change initiatives small enough to ensure success, yet large enough to engage multiple organizational stakeholders
  • Employ project management tools to plan and monitor activities (i.e. project charter, GANTT charts, etc.)
  • Celebrate and communicate success internally and externally to embed the stories in the culture
  • Create synergy by building future change initiatives on a history of small successes

[i] Heckmann, N., Steger, T., & Dowling, M. (2016). Organizational capacity for change, change experience, and change project performance. Journal of Business Research, 69, 777–784.

[ii] Black, J. S., & Gregersen, H. B. (2014). It starts with one: Changing individuals changes organizations (3rd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.

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