Organisational Change Management Volume 1


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The approach used in this reference book (Volumes 1 to 5) is guided by this statement:

"...In complex non-linear, dynamic systems, order emerges out of chaos, and the details are unpredictable. You have to set the initial conditions for change and create the context. But then you provide minimum specifications - just a few hard rules, which people can figure out how they are going to follow..."

Richard Koppel, 2004

This is especially true for large organisations as they

"...are far too complex, interactive and autocatalytic to be designed from the top down..."

Michael Shermer, 2008

In an established organization,

"...we have to revisit what made us strong in the past and what lessons we can use to rebuild in the future, but you can't be a prisoner of your history..."

Rod Eddington as quoted by Tony Walker, 2011

As Margaret Wheatley (2009) observes, chaos and destruction are part of life. The traditional ways to try to control these 2 factors are more rules, regulations, procedures, structures, etc. But this approach does not work!!!!!


"...Getting people to acknowledge the need for change is much more a political challenge than a technical one..."

Michael Watkins, 2009

" change because you want to stay contemporary and win. But you don't have to declare everything as being stupid that went before you..."

Jeff Immelt as quoted by Peter Roberts, 2010

At a personal level, Margaret Wheatley (2009) observes that for change to be effective, you have to be willing to feel insecure and challenged!!!!!!

Research continually shows that there is an expanding gap between the capacity of organisations to adapt and the intensity of change they are now facing. One example is an IBM study (2008) that states: only 2 out of 3 Australian projects failed to live up to what was expected, plus around 50% failed to meet goals of timeliness, budget or quality. The main obstacles to successful implementation are

"...changing mindsets and attitudes, corporate culture and underestimating project complexity and the skills and knowledge needed. People-related factors were more important than resource restraints and even technology..."

Narelle Hooper, 2009a

The 7 ingredients described in the recommended framework are designed to create the initial conditions and context with minimal specifications for a successful organisational transition.

One of the biggest challenges is how to handle the unexpected/highly improbable/uncertainty; these are linked with randomness. An unexpected event is usually rare, has a major impact and is, retrospectively, predictable (not prospectively predictable). Remember:

"...almost no discoveries, no technologies of note came from design and planning......a strategy for the discoverers and entrepreneurs is to rely less on top-down planning and focus on maximum tinkering and recognizing opportunities when they present themselves..."

Nassim Taleb, 2007

You need to keep watching for changes in circumstances (situations, context, etc), and to understand when and why organisational changes need to be made.

"...only 3 things in life are certain: death, taxes and the fact that today's strategy won't work's success will be tomorrow's old news. The question is not if, but when......To adapt successfully, you must constantly monitor the uncertainties that could invalidate the assumption underpinning your current strategy...?

Robert Simons, 2010

Even though planning can be hard in a changing environment, it is still important.Remember:

"...Really nice thing about not planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise..."

Anon as quoted by Dennis Hall, 2006a

Furthermore, we live in a time of constant flux and vast change, ie Churn of Change; with handling change being hard work

"...The prime requirement in business today is the ability to manage constant organisational change, and this demands finely tuned interpersonal and intuitive skills..."

Luke Slattery, 2007

"...few goals are more challenging to achieve than significant, lasting change in adult human beings......Our minds are changed either because we ourselves want to change or because something happened in our mental life that warrants change......change can occur in any sphere: our political beliefs, our scientific beliefs, our personal credo, and our views about ourselves. Sometimes, the change of mind can be smooth and congenial, but it is especially poignant when a change of mind a fundamental way......whatever the cause or prompt, we must ultimately be in charge of our own mind changing. At times of such powerful mind changes, the ability of the person to be aware of what is going on in his or her mind is crucial..."

Howard Gardner, 2006

"...changing behaviour is hard, even for individuals, and even when new habits can mean the difference between life and death. In many studies of patients who have under-gone coronary bypass surgery, only one in nine people, on average, adopts healthier day-to-day habits..."

David Rock et al, 2006

"...getting people to change is becoming increasingly important in our rapidly changing world environment. The dominant view of organisational leaders is that getting people to change just requires information and the right motivation: the need to know what has to be changed, and then use incentives to inspire people to behave differently. This is a reductionist perspective, which works well in any linear system: if a machine breaks down, we work out logically where the source of the problem is, and simply replace the part. However, if the 'thing broken' is someone's communication style, finding this out and trying to ' replace the parts' is not realistic..."

David Rock et al, 2006a

"...there aren't any key theories in managing change - only different competing theories. These are to do with strategic planning at one end, right through to theories of participation and involvement at the other. One deals with conceptualising the project, dividing it up into stages, working out strategies, and the other deals with ways and means to get people to buy in..."

Margaret Patrickson as quoted by Jodie McLeod, 2004

"...Niccolo Machiavelli. In his treatise on power, The Prince, the 16th- century Florentine wrote that there is "nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things". Machiavelli went on to warn that those who pursue change made enemies of all those who profit from the old conditions but had only "lukewarm defenders" in those who could do well out of the new order. Thus it happens that whenever those who are hostile have the opportunities to attack, they do it like partisans, whilst the others defend lukewarmly..."

Sophie Morris, 2011

"...the principle that fundamental change happens because people decide to make it happen, and organisations can inhibit or enable that change..."

Peter Senge as quoted by Mike Hanley, 2005

"...Change is complex. Change is a dynamic non-linear unfolding odyssey - not part of set stages". Managing change is difficult - is often about keeping many things up in the air at the same time..."

Patrick Dawson, 2005

"...responsibility assumption......It is possible to change other people's behaviour by changing one's reaction to them..."

Wikipedia on Dale Carnegie as quoted by Catherine Fox, 2005a

"...models of "planned change" typically involve three stages: gather information, follow due diligence procedures; decide what you want to do, making decisions and enrolling people in the decision; and follow through, monitoring and adjusting as you go.....Most change processes are superficial because they don't generate the depth of understanding and commitment that is required for sustaining change in truly demanding circumstances. Planning, deciding and monitoring and controlling the ensuring process may be all that are needed in situations where change is essentially about reacting to new circumstances but.....When you're facing very difficult issues or dilemmas, when very different people need to be aligned in very complex settings, and when the future might really be very different from the past, a different process is required..."

Peter Senge et al, 2005

"...Change is actually a process like a lot of other processes. It needs to be planned and measured and reviewed and reported on and challenged"research shows that in successful change projects 20% of the effort goes into planning "some people say it is better to be inspirational leader driven ... trust people to deliver. Yes, you need to do these things as well, but if you do that without planning and process it is likely to fail..."

Les Owen as quoted by Susan Heron, 2006

" need to focus primarily on getting the initial condition right. If you start from a good place, then the choices that lead to success will look like the right choices..."

Clayton Christensen et al, 2003

"...blindly copying the best practices of successful companies without the guidance of circumstance-contingency theory is akin to fabricating feathered wings and flapping hard. Replicating their success is not about duplicating the attributes; it's about understanding how to generate lift. Good theories are circumstance-based. They describe how managers need to employ different strategies as circumstances change in order to achieve the needed results. The use of one-size-fits-all processes and values historically have made the creation of growth torturous..."

Clayton Christensen et al, 2003

"...a lot of organisational change goes wrong because people lose their nerve halfway through, once you have invested in change......keep your nerve and see it through..."

Glyn Davis as quoted by Ben Potter 2016

" need people who can adapt and change - who are not purpose built...?

Richard White as quoted by Julian Bajkowski, 2009

NB Behind the organisational theory is the enquiry into human purpose and meaning. This can be linked with major religious frameworks, ie

"...every major religious framework that still operates.......can be traced back to a specific period: from 1800 to 200 BC - the Axial Age. The sixth century BC......was the most fertile interlude, when not only Pythagoras, Buddha, Confucius, Lao-tzu and several Hebrew prophets including Ezekiel lived and worked. From Greece emerged Western secular philosophy, which brought reasoned argument to bear on human predicament and the reflections it inspired. These reflections, no less urgent now than they were then, can be roughly summed up by this way:
Untold multitudes have come before us who have brought all the same passions living their lives as we do, and yet nothing of them remains to show that they'd ever been. We know, each one of us, or iat least fear, the same will happen to us. The oceans of time will cover us over, like waves closing over the head sailor, leaving not a ripple..."

Karl Jasper as quoted by Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, 2017

What difference do we ultimately make? Yet we remain driven by our single-minded passion to make a difference.

"...We aren't born into lives that matter but have had to achieve them. Such an endeavour demands a great deal of individual striving because what counts is nothing less than outstanding accomplishment..."
Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, 2017

"...There is nothing as powerful as an idea whose time has come..."
Anne T Lawrence as quoted by Rebecca Newton, 2019

You need to remember that most change initiatives are not successful, ie 
"...only 25% of change management initiatives are successful over the long term..."

Willis Towers Watson as quoted by Catherine Corich, 2021

Ideally change should spread through an organisation like a virus, eg Covid-19!!!

Implementing change involves the alignment of the 

- brain (rational thought, etc) 

heart (emotional thought, etc) 

gut (intuition, experience, professional instinct, etc). 

These 3 need to be aligned for change to occur; if one is not aligned, the implementation of change can be ineffective or hard work. 


In fact these 3 can be expanded to 8, ie Head, Heart, Gut, Eyes, Ears, Hand, Mouth & Feet

These 8 need to be aligned with change to be effective, ie head (conscious thoughts; rational & cognitive thinking; left & right brain thinking), heart (feelings & emotions), gut (visceral feeling, intuition & unconscious thought), eyes (vision & observing), ears (listening), hand (management - direction), mouth (verbalise why, how, what & when) & feet (rest of staff - action, implementation, etc). This is the essential change challenge.

"...we come out on the other side with a new understanding that the world works differently than we had imagined, that we are still safe - and even experience more expansive benefits - doing things we never thought possible before. We discover not only that we can survive, but thrive..."
Robert Kegan et al, 2009

i) Head (conscious thoughts; rational & cognitive thinking; left & right brain thinking)

While rational and conscious thought, logical analysis, etc are important, they are not enough, on their own, to make people change. Yet this is where most of the effort is concentrated when going through the change process.

ii) Heart (feelings & emotions)

This can involve tampering with your belief systems, ie challenging assumptions, identity, mindsets, etc.

iii) Gut (visceral feeling like instinct, 'gut feeling", experience, intuition, unconscious thought, etc)

It is the vital source of motivation to change

"...our gut is the source of what moves us - our deepest appetites give us the motivation and energy - to take on adaptive change challenges..."
Robert Kegan et al, 2009

Even though the change makes sense, ie there are compelling, logical reasons to support it, this is not enough. We need to have a visceral feeling (desire and want) for the change to be effective, ie to handle the unpleasantness and hardness of changing, the chance of failure, etc. It has to be the feeling that relenting, or giving in, is not a viable option.
You need to have the 'fire in the belly' or 'gut level urgency'

" gut feeling can prepare us to take action either because the cost of the status quo (to ourselves or others) has become intolerably high, or because we have experienced a burst of hope from seeing a way forward that was never clear before. A third source of gut motivation can be the personal experience of deep discrepancy......people feel the need to resolve a glaring gap they see themselves. The gap can be cognitive, affective, and/or behavioural..."
Robert Kegan et al, 2009

An example of the power of the unconscious thought is when a radar operator in a US battleship observes a blip on his radar screen that shows something is heading towards the battleship. He does not know if it is friendly or not. He has a couple of seconds to make a decision about how to handle this. He decides to send a missile to destroy it. This turns out to be the right decision as it was an enemy missile. When they analysed his actions afterwards they found that owing to his experience as a radar operator, his  unconscious thought had recognised a subtle difference in sound emitted on the radar detector that identified the object heading towards the battleship as unfriendly.

iv) Eyes (vision, ie see where we are going; observing, etc)

v) Ears (listening, understanding, recording, remembering, etc)

vi) Mouth (words; verbalise why you are changing, what you are changing, how you are changing, when you are changing, etc)

vii) Hand (guidance, know the direction to go, inviting other to join, etc)

viii) Feet (action, doing, movement, behaviours, doing, etc)

The 'hand' is important to management, ie direction; while the 'feet' are important to staff, ie doers

This involves perception, conception and inception.

Success follows from taking intentional, specific actions.

NB An additional one is the 'funny bone' which refers to the importance of keeping your sense of humour during change!!!!!!



The 5 volumes can be summed up by

"...There has to be a dissatisfaction for today, expectation for tomorrow, and help for them to change...?

Vineet Nayar as quoted by Fiona Smith, 2011a

At the same time, remember

"Change cannot be imported like a commodity; nor hatched as a secret plot; nor be like a bullet shot through a barrel of a gun. It is a state of mind, a feeling, a disposition that comes from the staff themselves. It involves changing perceptions, especially of power, and radically rethinking traditional approaches to running an organisation"

adapted by Bill Synnot, 2012 from a quote on representative democracy by Mexican democrat, Francisco Madero, (1873 ? 1913) in John Keane, 2011

It aims to provide a readily-accessible resource for anyone (in particular, practitioners) willing to address the issue of change in the workplace. The content is applicable to large and small enterprises, and is relevant to the private, co-operative, public and not-for-profit sectors, from the local situation to the global context.

While a cover-to-cover reading would reveal a certain amount of overlap and repetition, it is anticipated that most readers will dip into this publication from time to time and will not necessarily follow the sequence presented.

Change Management Masterclass started in 1996 as a workshop with an accompanying reference book; the content has been continually updated, expanded and refined to ensure that this resource remains at the cutting edge of current management and leadership discourse.

It is hoped that all participants find the workshop and the 5 accompanying volumes stimulating and useful in their endeavours to generate positive outcomes from the on-going evolution required by all successful enterprises, and that the package enhances understandings and strategic options.

I can be contacted to discuss any aspect of the Masterclass and volumes:

Bill Synnot

International - (+61) 418 196 707 or fax: (+61) 7 3399 7041

Australia - 0418 196 707 or fax 07 3399 7041 or E mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

NB Most professions develop jargon that is only understood by other people in the same professional group. This can be seen as a barrier to entry, because it is hard for outsiders to penetrate the profession or industry. Unfortunately, change management is no exception to this situation!!!!

Thus except for commonly-recognised acronyms, such as
- AFR (Australian Financial Review), AHRI (Australian Human Resources Institute), AIM (Australian Institute of Management)
- b (billion), B2B (Business-to-Business)
- CMI (Change Management Institute), CMR (Change Management Review), CYA (cover your arse)
- F2F (Face-to-Face)
- GFC (Global Financial Crisis)
- HBR (Harvard Business Review)
- IP (intellectual property)
- k (thousands)
- MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), m (millions)
- Online (delivering something through the Internet)
- PC (personal computer)
- RCL (Real Change Leaders)
- SAAS (Software as a Service), SEBCC (South East Brisbane Chamber of Commerce), SBS (Special Broadcasting Service - Australia)
every attempt has been made to keep professional jargon, acronyms, "gobbledegook" and "psychobabble" to a minimum!!!!!!!


As I have drawn on many sources of information and opinion that are in the public arena, I thank and acknowledge the people involved for their thoughts and contribution; all care has been taken to accurately represent and acknowledge others' views, work or research.

In particular, the contributions of Rosie Fitzgerald plus Jeremy, Odile & Xavier Williams were pivotal in the development of the 5 volumes.




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