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Leading Strategic Change - Breaking Through the Brain Barrier

Leading Strategic Change - Breaking Through the Brain Barrier

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Published by: Mypopohead on Feb 20, 2010
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Communication Plan





Chapter 11•Leading Strategic Change Toolkit 175

failure to see, failure to move, and failure to finish, then firmly

establishing a new map for the new destination, the only prob-

lem remaining for remapping change is guarding against our nat-

ural tendency to become trapped once again by the new map

that we have so faithfully followed.









12Getting Ahead

of the
Change Curve

Leading Strategic Change


Having touched on the final challenge of the timing of
change, let’s conclude with a direct assault on the issue. We are

compelled to do this because the payoff to you and your com-

pany can be significant. Three tactics to timing change—antici-

patory, reactive, and crisis—frame our options for the future.

Anticipatory change is just that—anticipating the need for

change. In other words, anticipatory change demands that we

look ahead to see in advance the signs that show change on the

horizon. This approach helps us to recognize early that the old

right map may soon become wrong. Then, based on this recogni-

tion, the challenge we face is trying to figure out in advance what

the new right map should be.

Reactive change is equally well titled. This approach revolves

around reacting to obvious signs and signals that change is

needed. These signs and signals surface from customers, com-

petitors, shareholders, employees, and other critical stakehold-

ers, indicating that we should change today or likely pay a

heavier price tomorrow.

Crisis change confronts a company when the signs and signals

have multiplied and intensified to the point of undeniability—

undeniable because, at this point, our competitors have already

begun to change, and we’re still sitting on the sidelines. When

signs and signals have been ignored too long, you can count on

the consequences showing up a firm’s financial performance. No

doubt you can remember dozens of companies that have faced

crisis change. For example, Nissan ignored the signals for so long

that a foreigner, Carlos Gohen, was brought in to manage the cri-

sis. With Kmart, the crisis has escalated so far that history is in

the making as Kmart competes for the biggest retail bankruptcy

record in U.S. history. At this point, it is not clear how many cri-

sis or turnaround change agents Kmart will need before return-

ing to its former glory—if it ever will.

We have found these three approaches to change quite useful

because they are intuitively straightforward. There is nothing

Chapter 12•Getting Ahead of the Change Curve


hard to understand about the essential elements to each of them.

Yet some subtle, counter-intuitive issues still exist underneath

each approach. Let’s examine each in more detail.

Fundamentally, the more you drift down the slope from anticipa-

tory change to crisis change, the easier it is to get the change

going. For obvious reasons, to initiate anticipatory change when

the signs and signals indicating its need are far off in the distance

is the most difficult. As Andy Grove, Chairman of the Board at

Intel, recently confessed, “Half of our employees have only seen

record earnings, quarter after quarter. There’s a feeling of invul-

nerability, which is death.”

Once the signs and signals of change start showing up at your

door with frequency, they are harder to deny. Consequently,

reactive change is easier to get going than is anticipatory change.

The signs and signals may become so vast, severe, and incessant

that they become undeniable. Kicking off crisis change is the

easiest because the patient is almost ready to keel over, lying

sick and bleeding on the battlefield. These increasing difficulties

to initiating change are shown in Exhibit 12-1.

However, as we slide down the slippery slope of the change curve

from anticipation to crisis, the costs of change also grow (Exhibit

12-2). Anticipatory change is hard, but the costs are significantly

less in the long run, compared with cutting out half of the work

force, idling expensive plants, and damaging the reputation of

the firm in the eyes of customers, suppliers, and society.

If you were to superimpose Exhibit 12-1 on Exhibit 12-2, you

could see that the difficulty and costs of change along these three

approaches to change—anticipatory, reactive, and crisis—are

inversely related to each other. As difficulty of change increases,

costs of change decline. Conversely, as costs increase, difficulty

declines. To see why this is the case, let’s dig below the surface

on this powerful dynamic by starting with the last approach

first—crisis change.





Most difficult to get going

Difficult to get going

Easiest to get going

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