Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Are Successful Change Efforts Driven by Authority or by Learning?

Research shows that successful change efforts are driven both by authority (top down directive) and by learning (institutional, mentoring, workplace subject matter expert trainers, teamwork, collaboration, peer coaching, personal management competencies). Change efforts require commitment and presence from top leadership and a culture of learning throughout the organization.

Personal and organizational resilience are a key to retaining valued employees and maintaining productivity during significant change projects. Often change projects have negative results because resources are focused on technology and leadership development only. One size fits all resources may be provided for members of the organization as a whole, however, such tools rarely aid in developing critical personal management competencies for all members of the organization.

Wills (2008) states that increasing ones awareness of individual styles and how those styles impact the workplace environment helps individuals to understand how they respond to change. Being aware of the concept of locus of control and how individuals can change this aspect of their personal perspective contributes to the overall development of personal management competencies. Personal management competencies are core factors in personal resilience. Personal resilience and lifelong learning are basic requirements for success during significant change. Resilient individuals develop skills that are essential to cope successfully with problems when they arise. These skills are also effective workplace skills; for example, the ability to solve problems effectively and set realistic goals and expectations. The key attributes of resilient individuals are well-developed interpersonal skills and responsible participation in their community.

Davis and Davis (2000) found that, significant learning usually results in change in performance, capacity, or attitude. Change is the main product of learning and if we don’t want to change, we probably do not want to learn either. Bushe (2001) defined learning as the outcome of an inquiry that produces knowledge and leads to change. All three components (inquiry, knowledge, and change) have to be present for an episode of organizational learning to take place.

In the current economic environment training and development is subject to the same budget constraints as every other part of the organization. The leaders that are responsible for training and development (knowledge management) need to consider cost effective methods to achieve organizational goals. Mentoring programs can be designed to resolve gaps in the succession plan competency map. Peer coaching circles can be established, perhaps held in place of some of the team meetings to share subject matter expertise among team members. Intranets can be utilized to share internal learning and training resources related to specific internal processes or product manufacturing. Online resources are available to provide current information on almost any topic pertinent to the organizational goals and can partially replace conferences. Maintaining contact and sharing resources with experts in other organizations can be managed to a large degree electronically. The actions of the Human Resources and Training and Development professionals will likely need to move away from classroom style internal and external training and towards creative in-house programs that focus directly on driving organizational goals.


Bushe, G.R., (2001). Clear Leadership, How Outstanding Leaders Make Themselves Understood, Cut Through the Mush, and Help Everyone Get Real at Work. Davies-Black Publishing, Palo Alto, California

Davis, J.R., Davis, A.B., (2000). Managing Your Own Learning. Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc., San Francisco

Wills, K.I., (2008), Change and Resilience in Organizations. VDM Verlag Dr. Müller AG & Co. KG


  1. I like this, "Change is the main product of learning and if we don’t want to change, we probably do not want to learn either"

    We could also flip that over and say:

    "learning is the main requirement of change, if you don't want to learn, you probably don't want to change either!"

    Change is about people and the people dimension of change is really about capability and motivation.

  2. Good point Dehumob-took me awhile to see this comment but I did enjoy it!