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Who Killed Change?

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Book Review on “WHO KILLED CHANGE”? by Ken Blanchard, John Britt, Pat Zigarmi and Judd Hoekstra,


  • ‘Change is the only thing that is Constant’.
  • Yet, when change initiatives are launched, people put up a lot of resistance.
  • There are people who would still like to be in the comfort zone of tradition, conformity of the old systems and sometimes even superstition.
  • People who try to bring about change initiatives have also been branded as ignorant and stupid fools by traditionalists and conformists!
  • They would still try to achieve success through obsolete ideas which have no relevance to today’s scenario.
  • The central character is adjetective; Agent Mike McNally who is investigating a serial murder of people having the same second name – Change.This murder took place at the ACME Company.
  • Agent Mike McNally, interviews 13 prime suspects, with the aid of his associate Anna. Through these series of interviews, McNally discovered a core truth: Different people at all levels of the organization are often responsible for killing change efforts.
  • Agent McNally discovered that Change was poisoned — the details shall be uncovered as we progress with the review.
  • The parable concludes with the following truth: “Change can be successful only when the usual characters in an organization combine their unique talents and consistently involve others in initiating, implementing and sustaining change.”

The suspects

The suspects in this parable directed at solving the mystery of leading people through change were:

Culture, Commitment, Sponsorship, Change Leadership Team, Communication, Urgency, Vision, Plan, Budget, Trainer, Incentive, Performance Management and, Accountability

The involvement of the suspects in this murder case are discussed below:

Suspect 1: Culture

  • Culture is defined as the predominant attitudes, beliefs and behavioural patterns that characterize an Organization.
  • The role of culture is to define the beliefs that guide how organizations operate. You could think of it as a compass that points in a direction, but it’s not a map that details how to get from point A to point B.
  • Change succeeds better in an organization where culture is leveraged with values, that is actions must always be consistent with values.
  • VALUE means:
    • V is for Very Efficient –appropriately allocating resources and control cost
    • A is for A Customer Focus – provide customers with highest level of service
    • L is for Lots of Team Work – “no one is as smart as all of us”
    • U is for Understanding – We must listen and understand all points of view, to make better decision
    • E is for Excellence – Our products are our livelihood and must bear the mark of excellence always.

According to Agent McNally, both culture and values were clearly stated, but there is a disconnect between values and actions. Employees don’t walk the talk and don’t live the values; thus change was gradually poisoned.

Suspect 2: Commitment

  • Commitment builds a person’s motivation and confidence to engage in the new behaviour required by change.
  • The role of Commitment is to create buy-in for the anticipated Change by the employees.
  • When a new Change is introduced in an organization, employees have some concerns, which must be clearly addressed by way of more information.
  • They want to know and hear why they need Change.
  • Leaders/Managers must swiftly respond to these concerns by way of urgency, otherwise, the success of Change drops dramatically.
  • Leaders/ Managers must let employees understand how the Change might affect them.
  • Leaders/Managers must be able to create a picture of the Change and help their people see what it will look like.
  • Vision, Sponsorship, Trainer, Plan and Incentives must be aligned at this point for successful Change.
  • There is no Commitment without involvement.

Suspect 3: Sponsorship

  • This is a senior leader who has the formal authority to deploy resources(time, money and people) toward the initiation, implementation and sustainability of the Change,
  • He is ultimately responsible for the success of the Change.
  • His major role is to be the executive sponsor of Change and ensure there is a Change Leadership Team in place that works together effectively.
  • Sponsorship is someone who every other person in the organization look up to.
  • Sponsorship is about taking ownership of the Change and he is someone at an influential position.
  • For Sponsorship to drive Change properly, he must have a strong relationship with his managers.
  • Sponsorship must do more than introduce change, he must be visible and supportive way beyond introductory meetings.
  • Must remain connected to the Change process.
  • His actions are much more powerful than his words.
  • He must constantly reinforce the Change.
  • He must enlist the support of Accountability and Incentive
  • Sponsorship failure in this case was to introduce Change only, and not involving Accountability and Incentive. No Follow-up.

Suspect 4: Change Leadership Team

  • This group actively leads the Change into the organization by speaking with one voice and resolving the concerns of those being asked to change.
  • Membership of this team must include informal leaders from all levels of the organization, people with strong technical or people skills in the area in which Change was going to be introduced.
  • The role of Change Leadership Team (CLT) is to hold Change up constantly and ensure Change is carried out into the organization.
  • For Change to be successful, the CLT must not use Change to benefit their own agenda
  • The CLT must not use Change to build and flex muscles, they must be open and transparent
  • Leaders/Managers must know the key to a successful Change is to strike a balance- doing some of the heavy lifting at the front end and then continuing to support Change throughout the change process.

Suspect 5: Communication

  • Communication creates opportunity for dialogue with the change leaders and those being asked to change.
  • One role of Communication was to talk while the other role is to listen.
  • The two must synchronize effectively for change to be successful.
  • In this review, Communication herself has problem with her hearing and heavily dependent on the use of hearing aids.
  • She enlisted the support of Committees but lacking concrete plan and Follow-up.
  • Communication failed to stay in touch with Sponsorship and CLT. This led to mixed messages about Change in the organization, which became, in turn an easy excuse for people to ignore Change.
  • She was too focused on getting the word out and not focused on creating dialogue to address people’s concerns about Change.

Suspect 6: Urgency

  • Urgency explains why the Change is needed and how quickly people must change the way they work.
  • For Change to survive, leaders must send Change out with Urgency and managers must accept Change with Urgency.
  • Managers must introduce Change to their staff with Urgency.
  • To be at the top of his game, Urgency would send clear and consistent messages about who Change is and what they expect from him.
  • He would communicate a compelling business case supporting the need for Change.
  • He would articulate the crisis or opportunity necessitating Change and communicate it broadly and dramatically.
  • Urgency must introduce Change to the organization and also ensure he is integrated.
  • In this case, Urgency himself was late for the interview with Detective McNally.

Suspect 7: Vision

  • Vision paints a clear and compelling picture of the future after Change has been integrated successfully.
  • The role of Vision was to pull herself out of the day-to-day operations and see the organization and its performance not as it is today, but as it could or would be tomorrow, next month, next year and so on.
  • It is also important for Vision to get others to catch glimpses, snapshots and movie clips of what she was seeing.
  • Vision looked up and out while most others looked down and in.
  • For Vision to be successful, she must get others to look up and out, envision the future and then recalibrate their activities to draw them toward the future.
  • The role of Vision is to ensure employees can picture themselves with the Change in the future.
  • In this review, Vision was a suspect because she didn’t see her own organization clearly.
  • Also, she didn’t secure the buy-in she needed to attain her inspiring vision.

Suspect 8: Plan

  • Plan clarifies the priority of the Change relative to other initiatives and responsibilities;
  • Plan works with those being asked to change to develop a detailed and realistic implementation plan, then to define and build the infrastructure needed to support the Change.
  • Plan could be strategic or tactical in nature and there must be a fit with expected Change.
  • Plan collaborates with Prioritization in order to effect a successful Change.
  • Infrastructural support is also key here to effect Change properly.
  • To have a successful flight, you need a flight plan. When, Where, How, How fast
  • Your people and Budget can only handle a certain number of Changes at one time.
  • Leaders must get in control of the processes.
  • Infrastructure, Measurement and Prioritization must be on the same page when Change is getting ready to take off.
  • Plan failed because it never occurred to him that he should talk to ACME’s employees- the people most impacted by Change- to help develop the implementation plan.

Suspect 9: Budget

  • The role of the Budget is to analyse proposed Changes from a financial perspective to determine how best to allocate limited resources and ensure a healthy return on investment (ROI).
  • In this review, Budget became a clear suspect because, she spent almost no money on creating the infrastructure that would support Change.
  • She had too much power over the other players on the leadership team who needed to help Change succeed.
  • Budget allocated a few dollars to Trainer for training, because she knew she would be ridiculed if Change was tried without any training to support the effort.

Suspect 10: Trainer

  • Trainer provides learning experience to ensure those being asked to change have the skills needed to follow through with the Change and succeed in the future organization.
  • Trainer ensures the team has the skills and commitment needed for the Change.
  • Trainer needs to collaborate with Incentives and Budget for there to be a successful Change.
  • Trainer must train everyone in the team to be on the same page always, for effective Change management.
  • Trainer contributed to the demise of Change as well, he made a half-hearted attempt at training those being asked to change, but the training didn’t stand a chance for many reasons.
  • Due to his sloppy appearance and less than optimal skill set, Trainer had little credibility with the people he was responsible for developing.

Suspect 11: Incentive

  • Incentive reinforces the desired behaviour and results that enable the change.
  • Many people confuse incentives with monetary rewards.
  • Numerous research studies have shown that well-deserved recognition often goes further toward reinforcing desired behaviours than monetary rewards.
  • To help change thrive, effective incentives must be aligned with the desired behaviour and performance that the change seeks to address.
  • Do you know what motivates each of your team members? If not, how will you find out?
  • What creative ideas do you have to recognize people for their hard work, desired behaviours and performance?

Suspect 12: Performance Management

  • This is the process that sets goals and expectations regarding the behaviours and results that will enable change.
  • For change to thrive in our organisation, the following performance management process should be adhered to:
  • Tracking process toward the goals and expectations.
  • Provide feedback and coaching.
  • Formally document actual results versus desired results.

Suspect 13: Accountability

  • Accountability is the process of following through with people to ensure their behaviours and results are in line with agreed goals and expectations.
  • It ensures leaders are walking the talk by creating consequences when behaviour or results are inconsistent with those that enable change.
  • Accountability is supposed to help change by providing help but accountability is always busy and thus delegate its bit.  Whenever issues came up, Accountability assigned a person to action but never followed up or resolve the issues.
  • For change to succeed, the following hallmarks of effective accountability must be adhered to:
  • Clearly defined measures of success goals that are SMART [Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Trackable/Time-bound].
  • Regular meetings to check progress and plan actions to keep the change on track.
  • Two-way accountability – partnering for performance between leader and team member, with each party accountable to the other.
  • No favouritism – everyone is held accountable.


  • Change rarely succeeds in an organization with the following symptoms:
  • Where people leading Change think that announcing him is the same as integrating him
  • Where people’s concerns with Change are not discussed or addressed.
  • Those being asked to implement change are not involved in the planning.
  • Various characters that can kill change, from suspect 1 to 13. However, these same characters have great power to help change thrive in an organization if they are applied in a positive way.
  • “Change can be successful only when the usual characters in an organization combine their unique talents and consistently involve others in initiating, implementing and sustaining change.”

Change must also be woven into all the key corporate functions – from strategy and vision setting to budgets, performance management, training and project management. It needs to tackle both the “hard” factors (budget, plans, performance, accountability) and the “soft” factors (culture, training, urgency, and communication).

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