Volume 102, January 2010: Spreading Change

Keyzine: An E-zine for Leaders about the People Side of Business

This is a monthly electronic magazine for anyone who wants to be a better leader, coach, facilitator, or simply, to tune up their people skills. It is a complimentary publication, devoted to the next evolution of Quality Thinking.

Publisher: © Key Associates, LLC, 2010 ISSN # 1545-8873

“It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.” — W. Edwards Deming

“People will remember what you did, long after they forgot what you said.” — Anon

“Change requires knowledge. Improvement requires wisdom.” — Peter Sholtes

“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” — Barack H. Obama


  • What’s Hot in Leadership
  • Maintaining Yourself as a Leader
  • Frequently Asked Questions from Leaders
  • Educational Opportunities
  • Useful Websites & Newsletters
  • Articles/Publications

What’s Hot in Leadership

  • Continuously improving. Making sure that changes are improvements.
  • Identifying process owners and empowering them to initiate and sustain change.
  • Leading by pull rather than push strategies.
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate.

Maintaining Yourself as a Leader

Leaders are drivers of change. Continuous improvement implies one positive change after another. However, not all changes could be considered improvements.

Where we sometimes falter is in the maintenance of desired changes – sustaining the gains, ensuring practices, establishing protocol. Many times, new behaviors easily erode to former ways. The organization does not take up the innovation and regresses.

You alone cannot implement and sustain changes. Where are your aids for sustaining and spreading change? In the people.

Frequently Asked Questions

“Who should I call on to help spread change?”
There are numerous leaders throughout your organization – in fact, most people are leaders in something. The “informal leadership” structure runs the organization and holds the trust of the people, thus their messages are believed and followed.
The concept of homophily implies that you like people who are like you, that you associate and bond with similar others. For this reason, peer-to-peer messages are more readily accepted.
According to Everett M. Rogers (2003), there are innovators and early implementers, who pull the critical mass toward adopting new ideas. These are your “idea champions,” who import, believe in, and educate others about needed changes.
Finally, there is the concept of “process owner,” the person who has the power to implement and sustain changes. You will want them to shepherd the change process over time and measure it periodically, to see if the gains are maintained.
“What practices will help us be successful in anchoring change?”
It is helpful to have a team, to make the change process culturally appropriate and design the roll-out process.
A critical component is the Communication Plan, which should use many channels and speak to all the senses, e.g., video, web, audio, print materials, leaders walking the talk. Looping the communication (repeating it) is a common marketing technique.
Making a solid Business Case for change is another helpful strategy. Answer the question to the station everyone is tuned in to – WII-FM (What's In It For Me?). Where is the evidence for this change? Can you point to other successes elsewhere? Can you reduce the effort required to adopt the new way or make it difficult to return to the old way? Can you build a compelling vision of a highly desirable future (Pull strategy)?
“How can we make the improvements permanent, i.e., prevent backsliding?”
Langley, Nolan et al. (1996) recommend:
  • Standardization (e.g., policies and practices)
  • Documentation (a flowchart might be helpful)
  • Visible Measurement (what counts is what we count)
  • Training (adult learners like to practice and get feedback), and
  • Periodic Self-Audits

Jim Handyside encourages the use of reminders, such as making the change messages very conspicuous, contiguous (close to the actions), in context (when and where), with content (sufficient education), and countability (measurement).

“Will we ever get everyone on board?”
Likely not. One-hundred percent adoption is rare. Learn from the resistance and listen to the laggards, but put your energies into leading those who are willing to move forward.

Exercises And Action Items:

  • Develop a plan for the spread of your idea, with the thought leaders.
  • Do not try to persuade the resistors, rather try to understand them. That will allow you to see whether and how the change can benefit them (Sholtes, 1998).


Literature on Spreading Change: Institute for Healthcare Improvement.

Change, Adaptation, and Learning Model (CALM): Organizational Transformations – Enabling And Sustaining Change.

Key Associates offers leadership education and consultation in change management. Contact us for more information.

Useful Websites & Newsletters

An underground movement to spread change: Spread Change

Steps to sustaining process improvement change: Sustaining Change

Communication ideas for social change: Building Communication Capacity and Sustaining Change

Keyzines on related topics: Change, Personal Change, Transformation, Renewing Ourselves, Building Community, Giving Direction, The Power of Vision, On Delegation, Employee Engagement, and Sustaining Change.



Buy MK’s latest book!