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Understanding Complex Change

This insightful video delves into the dynamics of successful change initiatives, drawing from the work of Costa Villa and Thousand. Focusing on organization and team development, the piece highlights the critical factors influencing change outcomes. The authors emphasize the importance of a clear vision, outlining the “why” behind the change, and the necessity for individuals and teams to possess the requisite skills. Additionally, incentives and resources play pivotal roles, along with a well-structured action plan. The video identifies potential pitfalls, such as false starts, frustration, resistance, and anxiety, attributing them to the absence of specific elements in the change process. Overall, it provides a strategic framework to enhance the likelihood of achieving actual change.


Understanding complex change. What does it take to succeed? You know, the research is fairly consistent that 75%, depending on the research, 75 to 80% of all change projects or change initiatives fail to achieve the original objective of the change initiative, so only 25 to 20% succeed. Why is that? This is a wonderful piece of work. I’m adapting this from Costa Villa and Thousand. They have a chapter called Managing Complex Change in a book for educators, interestingly enough, called Restructuring and Caring for Effective Education. So these are people that are writing for how do you create change in educational systems? When I found this, I thought, oh boy, this applies everywhere and I’m really happy to be sharing it with you. I think it’s really a brilliant piece of work and will help you analyze why. Maybe some of the change projects in the past for you have not worked and if you’re planning one now, what are the ingredients that have to be in place to raise the chances of it ending up in the 25% that succeed? Okay, here we go. What can happen when a change is attempted? Well, one possibility is you have a false start. There’s a lot of excitement and everybody gets excited and then nothing happens. You can have frustration, you can have resistance, you can have anxiety, confusion, or you can even have actual change. Now what they figured out is what is the prime cause, what is missing in your change process that will create each one of these possibilities? I think it’s really cool. These are the ingredients in a successful change initiative. From their point of view, you have to have a vision.

You have to have this concept where we’re going and why we’re going there. What’s the big idea here behind the change? You have to have capability. People in the people, the individuals, the teams, and the organizations have to have the skills and ability or be willing to develop the skills, how to make the change happen, what’s the new behavior, be trained for it, and so forth. There need to be incentives. People have to have reasons that make sense to them for making the change. There need to be resources, time, money, support from management leadership in order to make it happen. And there has to be a good action plan. Now, what happens if you have all of these except for one? I think this is a brilliant way they’ve laid it out here. Let’s say that you’ve got vision. You know why? There are skills, reasons, incentives, or present resources. But you don’t have an action plan. What you end up with is a false start. You get everything and then nothing happens. What if you have the vision, the skills, the incentives, and an action plan, but you don’t have the resources to support it, then you get frustration. People want to move ahead, but they can’t because they don’t have the resources. What if you have the vision or present skills or present resources are present? An action plan is present, but you don’t have sufficient reasons or incentives. People don’t understand why this would be worth doing. You end up with resistance, and that’s what dominates in this. Cool. There might be. You might have vision, incentives, resources, and an action plan. But what’s missing are the skills. People don’t have the capability or aren’t willing to develop the skills to make the change happen or to practice the new behavior.

What you end up with then is anxiety. People want the change to happen, but they can’t make it happen because they don’t have the skills. What if you have the skills and the incentives and the resources and an action plan? But there’s no big, big picture. There’s no vision, there’s no why people don’t understand why we’re doing it. What you get then is confusion. Everybody is sort of doing stuff, but there’s no overall purpose or direction for the change initiative. If you have all of those, you end up with actual change. You have a vision. People see where we’re going and why people have the skills or developing the skills. They have reasons and incentives for practicing the new behavior. They have resources and support. There’s a really clear action plan. When all of those are in place, you’re much more likely to have actual change take place. I just think this is very, very clever. I’m really happy that I ran across this. So next time, make sure that you have all five of these addressed in your change process: vision, skills, incentives, resources, action plan so that you come up with actual change. Once again, thanks to these folks, I hope you’ll go to their website Costa Villa and Thousand. I think this is very, very smooth. I’m going to start using it immediately, and I hope you do too, to make sure that your next change project has all the ingredients that will make it more likely to end up in the 25% where actual change takes place.


This insightful video delves into essential survival skills for navigating today’s workplace challenges. Covering skills seven to ten, it emphasizes the importance of developing courage to face challenges (symbolized by “tigers”), mastering cross-functional teamwork, adapting to rapid change, and finding purpose beyond routine tasks. The author encourages readers to view their work as contributing to a larger purpose, urging them to quit a mundane job and discover work that aligns with personal passions and makes a meaningful impact. With a focus on personal development, organizational growth, and effective teamwork, the video provides practical advice for thriving in the dynamic modern workplace.

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