Don’t leave CHANGE to Chance: Do’s & Don’ts

by Mike O'Neill

One of the most common questions my clients ask goes something like this “We are planning a major change, what steps should we take to improve the odds of success”? Leading Change is essential for any organization’s vitality, prosperity and growth. If you are considering a serious change effort, hopefully you will find these excerpts from Ann Lathan’s The CEO Refresher article helpful:

Mistake #1: Fanfare.

All too often organizations announce big changes and new programs with big events & fanfare, but then very little actually happens. The easy part is the announcement. And the fanfare is fun and contagious. But if your staff isn’t capable of the details, the follow-through, the implementation, then your program will die and the cynics will reign supreme, ever bolder in their determination to out-last any new program.



Celebrate genuine success, even small steps, in order to build momentum. Success increases energy, enthusiasm and the appetite for more success. It’s contagious. Start small and others will line up to join the improvement process.

 Mistake #2: Controlled Messages.

Companies are sometimes so determined to control messages that they plan every communication, ration information, and pretty much eliminate all honest, straightforward, two-way communication.



First, be sincere. Maintaining trust is as important as ever. People can handle a lot if they trust they are being treated honestly and fairly.

Help people understand the current situation, why improvement is important, and the reasons for focusing on a particular area. Be clear about desired outcomes; be open to discussion about methods of achieving those outcomes. Listen to concerns and try to understand how they see things so that you can help them gain a greater understanding of the situation and implications. Appeal to their self-interests by clarifying their contribution to and dependence on company success. Tell employees what you know and admit what you don’t know. Express the desire to work together to achieve the desired outcomes.

Mistake #3: Closed Door Planning.

Who are you kidding? Do you really think you can mastermind a new way without involving the people who know the situation best?



Change is most alarming when it is done to you and the destination is unknown. Be clear about the destination and then involve employees in determining how to get there. Reveal the current state fully, float alternatives or provide tools for developing alternatives, reiterate the goals, particularly the reason they need to care, and let the improvement opportunities speak for themselves.

Most of the time, you won’t make good choices without the help of your employees. You certainly can’t succeed without the help of your employees. Partnership is critical when trying to make substantial improvements.

Mistake #4: Extensive Training.

Extensive training is a cornerstone of many change programs. But many people return to their old habits the minute they get back to their desks despite the excitement exhibited during training.



Provide tools and techniques, as they are needed so that employees are motivated to learn and have immediate opportunities to apply what they have learned. Also, appeal to common principles and familiar thought processes in order to leverage existing strengths. Cryptic techniques and jargon intimidate. The most successful approaches are usually the simplest.

Mistake #5: Big Hairy Audacious Change.

The purpose of change management is to make change successful. The largest component of many change management programs often involves managing people’s reactions. Unfortunately, many change management efforts actually create anxiety, the exact opposite of their intentions.



You can and should leverage success every step of the way to significant improvement.

  • First of all, target specific, important, but manageable, areas that are ripe for improvement.
  • Develop a systematic, repeatable approach to improvement. One advantage of starting small is that you have an opportunity to test drive an approach and tweak it to match your company’s culture and skill level.
  • Build interest and commitment through a series of small successes.
  • ‘Spread’ the systematic approach to new projects, primarily to those eager to participate in the success they have witnessed.

This leveraged approach lets your organization learn how to change and helps to develop a culture that seeks opportunities to improve.


We cannot change anything until we accept it. 

– Carl Jung

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