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The 10-point change checklist

January 6, 2015 Mark Hannum

Moving an organization to the next level is not easy. It’s not routine. It’s not “business as usual.” Even a project as simple as upgrading your performance management system impacts what people do, how they do it, what gets reinforced in the organization, and what it costs. This takes committed leadership and the combined force of three very different types of individuals—experts, networkers, and passionate champions—who work together to address the following 10 critical factors for a successful change initiative:

1. Clear Governance
The objective of the project needs to be clear and the team’s decision-making capability needs to be carefully set up. Linkage research indicates that the most important factor in a team’s ability to succeed is the clarity of its charter.

2. Set Up for Success
Project teams need to be visible, viable, and have the support and sponsorship of good leadership in the organization. They also need to have access to all of the essential resources including computers, time, and money.

3. Count On Your Passionate Champions
Who are your passionate champions? It’s critical to get your best organizational salespeople behind the initiative—those who have conviction (and courage) for the project.

4. Powerful Conversations
A “powerful conversation” is a candid, open discussion of needs and wants—one in which both parties examine what they need and what the other needs, and then try to satisfy each other’s needs. An email won’t cut it. Project teams need to get out of their cubicles and talk to people face-to-face to make change possible.

5. Challenge the Sacred Cows
The most successful teams have two competencies that, above all else, help them to succeed: 1) the ability to see things for what they really are, and 2) the ability to successfully challenge the organization to raise the bar. A successful team must get underneath the myths and falsehoods the organization tells about itself and create a realistic assessment of the current state in order to map the way forward.

6. Remove the Distractions
Organizations are by nature in a state of homeostasis or balance. Finding the right leverage point to create change is often quite difficult and it usually doesn’t arise out of harmony and good feelings. It often arises out of chaos, conflict, and raw emotion. Very few organizations achieve real change by keeping “business as usual” rules in place. You need to change the rules of the game—the culture—to make change.

7. Send the Right Signals
Breakthroughs happen when significant numbers of individuals act differently, so it’s not good enough for organizational change to be taken on by only the committed few. Leadership must set an organizational context in which it is okay for people to participate and change, and send clear signals to the entire population that change is not only permitted, it’s encouraged.

8. Allow for Individual Growth
For many people, changing their belief system, learning new habits, and forging ahead are required for organizational change. But we can’t mandate people to change; they need to be allowed to follow their own passions for mastery. People need support to learn and grow and it’s okay to be slow! Take the time and respect the process that each individual must go through to change.

9. Signs of Credibility
As new processes are mapped and implemented and the bugs worked out, be sure to watch for signs of progress. You won’t see the signs in management meetings, but you should see signs in informal conversations in the company kitchen or at parties away from the office. You may actually hear some positive results!

10. Measure the Results
Measurement provides clarity of purpose for the intervention to all players in the organization. When organizations and teams take on significant organizational change, the understanding of the world at the beginning of the project will be very different from the beliefs at the end. Measurements need to change to reflect these new understandings. Customize measurements to fit the needs and demands of different stakeholders.

There is one point of caution: No intervention can be done before its time. All of these rules to the game require time to play out. You can’t change an organization without changing the individuals within it. Sometimes this can be done quickly and easily; most of the time, however, it takes a commodity in short supply: patience.

What are the organizational “Sacred Cows” you’re up against? Have you been involved with a successful change initiative? What made it successful? Or are you fed up with “change”?


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