Design your organization to use change management and leadership to pursue enlightened innovation, not targeted amelioration

Carol Sanford
4 min readJul 26, 2018

This post is part of a podcast and blog series called Business Second Opinion, where I give a contrarian view on ideas presented in publications like the Harvard Business Review. This time, we’re looking at an article titled Change Management and Leadership Development Have to Mesh, published on January 7, 2016. You can listen to the corresponding podcast episode #106 and subscribe to future shows on iTunes, Sticher, Audio Boom, or Google Play.

Setting the Stage: Does your change management process work to ameliorate or innovate for your organization?

Carol’s Lesson: Epistemologies of change and leadership (that is, how people believe we can know something or can change what we know, and therefore change themselves) typically fall into three groups.

3 Epistemologies

  1. Change management is a project-by-project endeavor. This epistemology centers on the belief that we have to do it well each time because the culture is resistant, but it can be overcome with some type of intervention(s). A project-by-project endeavor assumes that change management must be led by people of higher rank, who help manage others to overcome their fears and believes. This is a Kurt Lewin idea of the process where we must break the pattern, make the change and then reset the organization. This is a machine world idea of how change happens.
  2. Change management through behavioral design. The centers on the idea that if you incentivize people then they will change their behavior. Or get a role model out in front illustrating the desired change behaviors and then others will follow. This is a common practice that businesses use and follows behavioral theory.
  3. Build an organizational culture that is working on change. The epistemology here is that you can build an organizational culture that is working on change as something that happens moment to moment, and is resilient and able to change as a fluid process. But this requires different capabilities in all persons and a work design that is constantly evolving with strategy. People need the capability to manage in the moment and to have points of reference— we refer to this as the Strategic Corporate Direction. It is the ongoing anchor for all change plus capability development that is recurring in short cycles.


This HBR article is based on an outdated epistemology regarding learning and change. And, therefore, the methods work from the idea of amelioration. For example, that change must be externally induced and is episodic. Engage change management when needed to introduce a change, rather than as an ongoing process. The current, hierarchical way of working is seen as fine and stays the same, but with a bit of shift in culture.

Author’s premises

1) Need to integrate change management and leadership — this makes sense. Need to focus on how to deviate from the existing culture or it will hold it back.

2) Simultaneous bottom up — creating a task force that is working on some change with extra training. Capability added:

  • Have a leadership training for new leaders, working on education and developing on new skills (it is a training problem).
  • Reach out to others and get their perspectives and fears.

3) Introduce a survey tool to find out where the organization is about a change — culturally and personally (e.g. their fears). This provides information and allows people to feel heard but doesn’t develop new capability in survey participants.

4) Newly trained person leads by engaging others to create a culture change.

5) And also top down:

  • The executive ranks deliberate on desired results and set goals with measureable outcomes that all of the executive team agrees on
  • Select people to be trained (tools for change like plan-act-reflect) in the leadership/change management process; make clear the objects, time frame, type of support and rewards expected up front, then give financial and executive support (ameliorations).
  • Support for the team implementing change; for example, structure, accountability requirements, processes, and motivation as they engage. Can now give freedom to create their own solutions by working on it in the leadership training and can get others in the same class to give reflections and ideas.


They seem to think it is about bridging layers of the organization instead of a mental framework for what to consider or how to manage change. It is a batch view of change or a continuous improvement view rather than a regenerative way of working. This leads to “amelioration projects” rather than innovation evolution, as a way of working.


  • There is are few solid premises but treated as an add-on they are incomplete. For instance, developing people in natural work groups who are doing something together
  • Combine learning and doing—actualizing and potentializing

Change is a daily process tied to strategy and market/customer lives (not inputs) and built into work design and not projects where a shortfall is happening. And for which you then train people in leadership/change management.

Five phases:

  1. Strategy education and activating toward markets, engaging the whole organization.
  2. Culture change by how the strategy education is set up, and then work design changes. Happens by ritual of development monthly and maybe every six weeks. Has personal development woven in and based on application to daily work not just your one-off task assignment. Move from mental models to systemic frameworks for everything.
  3. Processes: set up market field teams and make promises to customers to evolve the effectiveness of their lives. Always in a promise. Always working on change.
  4. Education on critical thinking skills and personal mastery. E.g. new decision-making processes. How to self-manage behavior.
  5. Now redesign systems and structures to ensure the new way of working is carried out.

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Originally published at on January 23, 2018.



Carol Sanford

Sr Fellow Social Innovation, Babson |# 1 AmazonBest Selling/Multi-Award Winning Author | Regenerative Paradigm Educator