Change & Transitions — Overview

The 25th Edition of our Craft-Building Series
Hosted by Executives and Guild Members Louise Mowbray & Sean Moffitt.
Change Alchemy : Consistent with our Guild’s interest in making sense of big challenges and Grey Swans.
Three of our six Guild staples are: one-of-a-kind experiences & events, deep explorations of content and collaborative learning — The Craft Building Series hit on all three.
We have a loose Craft-Building Series event formula that seems to work.

Change & Transition Context

Change and transformation have been around forever; how we study them is a much more recent phenomena.

The Backdrop — A Global Pandemic

The last two years has seen the world’s biggest shock, shift and change over the 2020s.
  • 1910s — WW I , the Spanish Flu and The Assembly Line
  • 1920 — The Roaring 20s, the Wall Street Crash and The Radio Decade
  • 1930 —Political Extremism & European Unrest, The Depression & The New Deal and Flight
  • 1940s — WWII, the Baby Boom and The Atomic Age
  • 1950s — The Cold War, the TV Era and The Consumer Age (Mass Consumption/Production)
  • 1960s — Vietnam, Civil Rights & The Space Age
  • 1970s — The Energy Crisis, Home Appliances & Electronics Age
  • 1980s — Berlin Wall Coming Down/The Fall of the Iron Curtain, Rise of Conservatism & The Computer
  • 1990s — Silicon Valley/The Internet, Drug Use and Y2K & the Boom & Bust
  • 2000s -9/11, The War on Terror, Banking Crisis and the Mobile Decade
  • 2010s — Polarization, Climate Urgency and the Social Media Decade
  • 2020s — the Global Coronavirus Pandemic, ?? and ?? (consult our 21 Grey Swans as future candidates)
More than 54 other long term outcomes, The Future of Work has changed forever.
Remote Work Acceptance, Digitalization and strive for work/life balance are this pandemic’s biggest work legacies.
Life reappraisal and shifting attitudes about work are experienced by nearly two-thirds of us.
Business gets more empathetic, more disciplined and bigger picture.
Even CEOs change their styles during the pandemic.


Change can be painful, but there really is not other good alternative.

The Subtle Difference Between Change & Transition

Change is External, Happens to Us & Can Be Quick & Unexpected/Transition is Internal, Happens Inside of Us & Can Be Slow, Gradual and Controlled.

The Duality of Change

We want it, we just don’t want it to affect us:

Four of of five of don’t want change to impact us in the workplace.
Across so many countries and political, economic and heath spheres, we want to see major change.

Change in Organizations

The Role of Culture & Social Influences is Integral

Nearly 80% believe culture and social factors are the #1 factor in the change and transition mix — work from home made this appear in the front view as many companies’ cultures pivoted to online, remote work.
The Subject has Many Facets at a Societal, Organizational, Team and Individual Level.
  • what allows change to actually stick?
  • has the pandemic made us more ready for constant change?
  • are we leaving people behind with our change?
  • will we attribute our change 10 years from now back to these pandemic years?
  • can we educate young and old alike on being adaptive and resilient to change or does this change readiness rest inside you?

The Complexity of Change — An Interconnected Jigsaw:

Change in the Organization:

  • Reaction to Crisis
  • Addressing Performance Gaps
  • Impact of New Technology
  • Identifying Potential, Opportunity & Avenues for Growth
  • Reaction to Internal & External Pressures & Influences
  • Mergers, Acquisitions & Changes to Company Direction, Ownership and/or Leadership
  • Change for the Sake of Change — showing busy-ness, windows for optimism and hope, occasional smoke screens
  • Something Sounds Good — momentum, bandwagon effects, headline-stealing news and internal biases (see 225 of them listed here)
  • Competitive Moves/Counter-Moves — industry & cross-industry dynamics
  • Planned Abandonment — reconciling that there is no going back on moves, burning bridges behind them and transitioning from what was (e.g. old business model, old technology, old product line, old org. structures)

Change in the Individual:

  • Change in Routines (and default procedures/processes)
  • Reactions — social reinforcements/expectations and interpersonal dynamics
  • Roles & Identity Shifts (e.g. demographic stage, economic, status, move)
  • Relationships & Crowd Instincts — direct change with close relationships, indirect change with crowd movements
  • Reflections and Reappraisal — time, space and opportunity for reconsidering existing state
  • One Behavior At a Time/Immediacy — breaking change down into smaller step and time components, putting multiple small steps in combination
  • Making it Sticky — making change measurable & monitorable, providing positive reinforcement loop. seeing change manifest itself concretely
  • Subtracting, not just adding — providing clarity and focus
  • Carrot Rewards and Stick Disincentives — extrinsic, intrinsic and explicit motivator and limiters
  • Guidance & Time — role models, coaching, tools, resources and prolonged period of work

Satisfaction with Change:

Half the people like and feel like they benefit from change, the other half don’t.

Technology, Resources, Methodology and Leadership

Interestingly, technological change feels more empowering and thus leads to greater change acceptance than other forms of change.
Magically, more resources allocated to change leads to better change outcomes.
Having an approach or methodology (and there are many, see our list below) also leads to better change outcomes.
Having effective senior level leadership and change sponsorship leads to better change outcomes .

Who is Holding Change Back in Companies?

An Interesting Debate — but in the final evaluation, senior management is always responsible.
Consistent with much of our experience, middle management are the biggest resistors to change as they feel transition creates threats to their accumulated success, identity and turf won.

Fifteen+ (15+) Different Approaches to Change

Each of these approaches have different emphasis on cultural, structural, procedural and individual aspects of change. All of these models (to a greater or lesser extent) acknowledge the change success factors of:

  • Invented: Jeff Hiatt in 1996, Prosci
  • Pros: practical, out of the box, field-tested, determines change readiness, individual/small team focus, assessment & corrections, gives people confidence in changes ahead
  • Cons: prescriptive, not for all business change particularly large scale efforts, are all change issue sequential in nature? the role of leadership is left out
  • Invented: late 1970s by Tom Peters and Robert Waterman (McKinsey)
  • Pros: complete and adaptable for a wide variety of change, great for multi-department change, strategic top-down direction of change facilitated, includes hard apsects (Strategy, Structure, System) and soft aspects (Shared Values, Staff, Style, Skills) of change, no blindspots, facilitates tracking, balance — each variable given equal weight, and interactions between elements is heavily explored
  • Cons: only focused on internal factors, static (not dynamic), and doesn’t address overall organization effectiveness and performance, does not provide roadmap steps
  • Invented: Psychologist Kurt Lewin in 1936
  • Pros: simple and understandable, focus on “big boulders” to clear, common sense, good in diagnosing old patterns or overlooked problems that hold people and companies back, rooted in common human behaviors, includes force-field analysis, and spreads out change over time to provide adequate support & training
  • Cons: Not detailed, too rigid, combative> nurturing, more focused on explaining than harnessing change in forces to combat resistance, can be slow, and requires full senior management adoption
  • Invented: John Kotter, Harvard Business School in 1995
  • Pros: Creates urgency for change and small wins, focuses on getting employees on board and forming coalitions, tips for effective communication/morale building, preparing employees for changes, creates path and vision, and high importance on values of trust, transparency, and teamwork
  • Cons: Top-down and spends comparative little time on feedback, lacks some level of executional detail and all change issues may not follow the same eight step sequence
  • Invented: Psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in 1969
  • Pros: Focus on employee resistance, helps ease bad feelings and emotional impact, process leads to buy-in and productivity, applicable to many situations and changes, industry-agnostic, easy to understand, clear steps, and provides empathy to stakeholders of change
  • Cons: Individual-focused, not one-size-fits-all, tough to lead, all people don’t spend the same amount of time or sequence as a reaction to change, explains reactions not always applicable, connections between stages is loose, and used to supplement other models — not be the controlling change architecture
  • Invented: Joshua Freedman (Six Seconds), 2010
  • Pros: Emotional intelligence component, outer ring cycle of engagement and inner ring cycle of resistance are novel components, sequential and iterative in nature, and syncing of resistance with prescription
  • Cons: Better dealing with specific situations than overall business, broadly applicable and therefore may lack depth of insight on each component, and more of a coaching than strategy/guidance tool
  • Invented: Early 1980s by organizational theorists David A. Nadler and Michael L. Tushman
  • Pros: deals with friction between personal and organizational values, provides context for team/department activities with big picture in mind, rigorous but flexible framework, classifies observations, helps organizations understand impact of change management on organizational performance, and bridges the interactions between social & personal with technology & operations
  • Cons: the more complex an organization, the longer and more expensive the process, absence of a structure may lead to grasping for solutions for the lack of fit & problems raised, sometimes tension is good and fit isn’t required, struggles with the importance of big fit challenges vs. small fit red herrings, too complex for smaller startups and scaleups, and some claim too internally focused
  • Invented: In 1991 by organizational theorists Geoffrey Moore, building on earlier works of Everett Rodgers.
  • Pros: placing people at the core of change thinking, all individuals are not alike -with different appetites for change, identification of first groups to introduce changes to is key, evidence-based — model is translatable across industries, groups and cultures, and embraces aspect and importance of time to have change snake through different populations
  • Cons: not great for quick changes that need to be imposed, may stereotype people into different categories, discounts the value of major intervention to accelerate people to the left of the curve, may be perceived as choosing favourites in change implementation, and resistance by late majority and laggards may entrench if coalesced as a final group
  • Invented: In 1991, by change consultant William Bridges.
  • Pros: Focuses on transition not change or circumstances, acknowledges a neutral zone (productivity dip) that people need to get through before success happens, higher change acceptance when taking into account employee feelings, and value of coming to terms with the past
  • Cons: More of a guide than a cheeklist or detailed framework or roadmap, emotions and people are complex and different — not all teams and people act the same, and narrow scope — only dealing with the human aspects of change
  • Invented: Originally developed in 1949 by psychology professor D. W. Fiske and later expanded upon by other researchers including Norman (1967), Smith (1967), Goldberg (1981), and McCrae & Costa (1987).
  • Pros: Psychological underpinnings of change, use as a test to recruit, promote and appoint employees, strength is in application, can be used at a company, team and individual level, important leadership orientation, and can be further broken down (as seen by model visualized below)
  • Cons: Not a framework (but can be used in association with one), may omit important traits (e.g. moral character), fails to make causal explanations to human behavior, descriptive not predictive, self-reporting, and five factors have found to be not completely independent
  • Invented: Created by psychologists Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham in 1955
  • Pros: encourages giving and accepting constructive feedback, done well — establishes better, more trusting relationships, improves working relationships between teams, simple layout, reflects increasing emphasis on soft skills and communication in business, and can be foundational with flexibility to include other change models
  • Cons: practical concerns in how the model is used, not great for low trust or threatening environments, need strong facilitation, appropriate levels of disclosure differ by organization, cultural, gender and age-related sensitivities, useless if it does not lead to behavior change, and tough to establish company-wide
  • Invented: Developed in the early 1970s by the American professor and organisational psychologist Harold Leavitt.
  • Pros: integration and codependency of elements, helps to develop communications and training programs to bridge gaps, appropriate for organizational restructures and interrelated roles and tasks, considers work flow and supportive technology, comparison of current vs. desired future state, and popular with IT environments
  • Cons: does not take into account external environment or factors, skewed to in tech-dependent organizations, and does not provide pathways - more diagnosis-driven
  • Invented: Author and web developer Jason Little in 2014 but built on principles of Deming/bell labs of 1930s and continuous improvement/ Kaizen schools of 1970s and 1980s.
  • Pros: as its name implies -focused on impacting users quickly, addresses difference between successful installation & implementation, a staple of digital transformation, great for disruptive environments, scales across organziations, cross-functional motivations, people’s capacity and limits are addressed, responding to new information, having more conversation earlier, and letting go of “perfect”
  • Cons: can lead to planning chaos given wide range and iteration of experiments and unclear final destinations, requires decentralization of control and leadership, demands and needs full buy-in by all, requires full and transparent data from across company, and lacks strategic and planning orientation
  • Invented: Consultants Jeff Anderson and Alexis Hui in 2010.
  • Pros: Popular with service and software business, define hypotheses, dynamic —validation and iteration of change, specificity, data & measurement focus, stakeholder-focused, highly visual/canvas based approach, adaptive > corrective change, align leadership goals with employee motivations, people affected by change co-create the change
  • Cons: leadership is asked to buy into a process vs. a plan, all or nothing endorsement — given philosophical difference tough to test drive lean change in a function/small division, discounts leader/user passion and commitment vs. feedback loop, and not always possible to build a testable prototype when it comes to a minimum viable “change management” concept
  • Invented: Author and psychotherapist Virginia Satir in the 1970s and 1980s.
  • Pros: Tracks emotional progression through stages, predictive and helpful in preparation and response of change, assumes a level of chaos through change and pushing through it, addressed change abandonment due to resistance, confusion, and lack of communication, change plotted and graphed over time, and great for deadline-driven environments
  • Cons: not great at planning and executing change — does not help determine what changes need to be made, and does not provide lens to sustained change


Nudge Theory — more tips than an approach, but nudges and offering choice > telling someone, importance of touchpoints

Change Management Resources:

The Books:

To Change is to be Human

Craft Building Series — Linkedin Live

Discussion between Sean Moffitt and Louise Mowbray.

The Grey Swan Guild — Other Happenings

And our Craft-Building Series #26 — Creativity & Imagination

Day of The Swan II — Announced for May 26, 2022–24 Hrs , Dozens of sessions and podcasts.

May 26, 2022–27–8AM EST to 8AM Day of the Swan — 24 Hours of Unconference — Looking Back to Look Forward. It’s Live, Virtual Sensemaking and ThoughtTasting. It’s a celebration of the second anniversary of the inception of the Grey Swan Guild. Join us for the day or for an hour.. Present a session or comp participate, converse, listen, learn, educate, reflect, think, make, do. Join us.

Our Guild Spring Weathervane — The Next 1000 Days

Stay tuned for details!



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Making Sense of the World’s Biggest Challenges & Next Grey Swans — curating and creating knowledge through observation, informed futurism, and analysis🦢