How Change Settles In

Progress is impossible without structure.

Change agents who want to root their hoped-for vision into the DNA of what they’re leading have to support change with structure.

Change launches with the appeal of the vision and believability of the leader.

Change sticks by rooting change into culture: how you communicate, organize, and decide.

The quickest way to stop change is to make it frustrating for the people who are trying to implement it. Your job is to remove every possible barrier to them implementing change. Here are three ways to get started:

Replace roadblock leaders

You don’t necessarily need managers who are the running the fastest. You cannot have managers who are standing in the way. If YOU experience resistance from them, I guarantee they are creating resistance beneath them. They are most optimistic when they are in front of you.

If you’ve cast a vision that’s appealing and back it up with personal sacrifice, there will be people who want to be on board. The best gift you can give them is a team leader who supports them.

Amanda is a fourth-grade teacher at a school pursuing STEM certification, but is getting subtle resistance from her grade lead about ‘the way we’ve always done it.’ While Principal Jan recognizes Amanda’s predicament, Jan doesn’t fire the older grade lead, but makes Amanda the point person for STEM certification for upper elementary.

Organize teams for speed

To move forward into a new future will require a new structure. You may need to temporarily add a layer of cross-functional teams or work groups (giving you a great opportunity to give leadership to the right people).

You may try creating a new process chart rather than an org chart. Instead of first moving people around, start by asking what must get done.

Amanda begins by creating two cross-functional team of teachers who oversee curriculum and extra-curriculum activities. Teachers still maintain their reporting structures and responsibilities, but come together around essential tasks for STEM certification.


You decide what language people use to describe the new change. But, you must decide quickly. It must be right. And you must say it all the time. If your language is unclear, people will forget what you said and replace it with something else. In this regard, it’s better to be clear (even catchy) than comprehensive.

Principal Jan meets with parents and teachers to identify how STEM helps students. They use their school mascot to create a rally cry around the new direction. Jan announces three phases of this change, which she brings up at every morning bell, school board, and PTA meeting.

Change is hard, but that doesn’t mean it has to be complicated. Take The Change Inventory today to see where what you’re changing is most likely to get stuck.

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