Making Change Management Work in 2020

One of the greatest responsibilities of leadership is driving continual evolution of the organization toward a well-defined future state. Implied in this role is the need to lead change. Easily said, complex in practice.

Navigating change has been prevalent in management literature for decades. Notwithstanding the books, articles, consultants and experts, change efforts generally produce moderate success at best. Why? In the words of a long-time colleague, “Change would be easy if it didn’t involve people.”

Human beings are wired for free will. Change requires us to alter established, and perhaps comfortable, behavior patterns. With self-imposed change, redesigning our patterns is challenging enough. There can be an additional layer of resistance in an organizational setting, where change is triggered by someone or something outside ourselves, because the motivation stimulating behavioral pattern redefinition is not our own.

The term “reactance” refers to a feeling that our behavioral freedoms or choices are being taken away. As leaders, we must attune to the emotional side of change that takes place within the people being asked to refine their activities.

Change leadership draws upon inspiring participation in the transformation at hand, motivating behavior, inviting co-ownership of tactics and sustaining focus. Recognizing the human dimensions of change, here are five actions leaders can take to increase their effectiveness as change leaders in 2020:

1. Vision. Successful change efforts begin with a clear picture of the organization’s future state and why fulfilling the vision matters. Vision clarity, with a succinct rationale for the direction forward, provides a foundation for the inspiration necessary to overcome inertia and resistance to change. Creating buy-in to the vision is a first step toward opening minds to the introduction of the new behavioral patterns necessary to make and sustain change.

2. Engagement. Stakeholders need to feel emotionally engaged in where the organization is going, the steps in the journey and their role in fulfilling the vision. Providing a compelling picture of what your organization wants to demonstrate creates the touchstone for emotional engagement and gives the change endeavor traction. Engagement is the vehicle through which leaders invite team members to co-own the change effort and all tactics of implementation. As a result, team members feel motivated.

3. Overcommunication. Regular communication with stakeholders about where the organization is going, progress and accomplishments toward the change vision creates transparency. But regular communication is not enough. Team members need an extraordinary level of information, in small, digestible servings, to stay connected to the change story. Defining a messaging framework for the change effort, including why a shift is necessary, how implementation is progressing and what the future state will look like are pillars for communications tactics.

4. Actualization. Success in a change effort is usually experienced in a series of outcomes which bring specific results to life. Drawing attention to the actualization of deliverables, which aggregate to become the future state, offers team members a sense of accomplishment. The gestation cycle for meaningful change efforts tend to be measured in quarters or years, so presenting evidence of progress frequently is essential to sustaining focus.

5. Reinforcement. Muhammad Ali said. “It’s the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief. And once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen.” Reinforcement takes place through frequent reaffirmation of the future state vision, roadmap and progress being made toward bringing the vision to life.

Every leader has a decision to make — initiate change or react to pressures forcing the organization’s evolution. Intentionally defining and designing a compelling future state vision that wins hearts and minds of team members is core to making change management work in 2020.

Originally published on SmartBrief for Leadership (
Dave Coffaro, principal, Strategic Advisory Consulting Group. Dave’s areas of expertise include leading organizations in the process of strategy development and execution, change leadership, organization transformation and innovation. He is a well-respected consultant, author and public speaker. Details at

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