Heart Of Change

p.x: Our main finding, put simply, is that the central issue is never strategy, structure, culture, or systems.  All those elements, and others, are important.  But the core of the matter is always about changing the behavior or people, and behavior change happens in highly successful situations mostly by speaking to people’s feelings. … In highly successful change efforts, people find ways to help others see the problems or solutions in ways that influence emotions, not just thought.  Feelings then alter behavior sufficiently to overcome all the many barriers to sensible large-scale change.

Step 1: Increase Urgency

p. 10: Core pattern associated with successful change

SEE.  People find a problem in some stage of the change process — too many of their colleagues are behaving complacently, no one is developing a sensible strategy, too many are letting up before the strategy has been achieved.  They then create a dramatic, eye-catching, compelling situations that help others visualize the problem or solution to the problem.

FEEL.  The visualizations awaken feelings that facilitate useful change or ease feelings that are getting in the way.  Urgency, optimism, or faith may go up.  Anger, complacency, cynicism, or fear may go down.

CHANGE.  The new feelings change or reinforce new behavior, sometimes very different behavior.  People act much less complacently.  They try much harder to make a good vision a reality.  They don’t stop before the work is done, even if the road seems long.

p.12: Analysis has at least three major limitations.

  • First, In a remarkable number of cases, you don’t need it to find the big truths.
  • Second, analytical tools have their limitations in a turbulent world.  These tools work best when parameters are known, assumptions are minimal, and the future is not fuzzy.
  • Third, good analysis rarely motivates people in a big way.  It changes thought, but how often does it send people running out he door to act in significantly new ways?  And motivation is not a thinking word; it’s a feeling word.

p.13: (regarding copyright): No matter how you read the book, feel free to copy a story and send it to your colleagues.  The more a relevant story circulates among your colleagues, and the more it creates useful dialog, the better.

p.27: Sometimes we think that fear is good for people, making them less complacent.  This can be true.  But in large-scale change, if fear is not converted to a positive urgency, and with some speed, it can become a significant liability, not an asset.  With too much fear, some people will focus on the immediate source of anxiety, nothing else, as in “Alligators.”  Some will find fire extinguishers, put out the flames, and then climb back on the platform.  Some will freeze, hide, or become very self-protective.  People can start to think “Who cares about the organization?  I don’t want to die.”


What Works

  • Showing others the need for change with a compelling object that they can actually see, touch, and feel.
  • Showing people valid and dramatic evidence from outside the organization that demonstrates that change is required.
  • Looking constantly for cheap and easy ways to reduce complacency
  • Never underestimating how much complacency, fear, and anger exists, even in good organizations

What Does Not Work

  • Focusing exclusively on building a “rational” business case, getting top management approval, and racing ahead while mostly ignoring all the feelings that are blocking change.
  • Ignoring a lack of urgency and jumping immediately to creating a vision and strategy
  • Believing that without a crisis or burning platform you can go nowhere.
  • Thinking that you can do little if your not the head person


Step 2: Build the Guiding Team

p.48: [the problem with task-forces]

  • A firms executive committee approves the expenditure of tens of millions of dollars and then hands the responsibility and accountability over to a twelve-person task force staffed mostly by people buried in the organization.
  • Ask the execs about this approach and they say, “those are the people who understand the technology. So they must be in charge.” [cf. Edge of Chaos, tough love]
  • Members of the task force are not expected to create a vision, and they don’t.
  • When they try to communicate something about their objectives or plan, it is ignored or not seen as credible by many people.
  • When they start to bump into barriers — a threatened middle management, the wrong compensation formulas, a resisting executive vice president — they become frustrated and look to someone above them to solve these problems.
  • Top management is preoccupied elsewhere — this is not their job, they are not the software people — so they do little and do it slowly.
  • Others do less, since no one wants to make sacrifices for this task force, especially with the hanging question “If this change is so important, why aren’t the real bosses guiding the effort?”

p.49: [Implications of being on a task force]
“You are on the new team. Here is the agenda. Your job is X and Y.”
Not addressed are queries full of affect:

  • But what’s the purpose?
  • Can we succeed?
  • What will this demand of me?
  • Can I supply what will be demanded?
  • What about the implications to my career if we do not succeed?

p.49: If you are two levels down [in an organization], remember, finding a way to show the boss the issues is much more powerful than a valid but boring memo.

What Works

  • Showing enthusiasm and commitment (or helping someone do so) to help draw the right people into the group.
  • Modeling the trust and teamwork needed in the group (or helping someone to do that)
  • Structuring meeting formats for the guiding team so as to minimize frustration and increase trust
  • putting your energy into Step 1 (raising urgency) if you cannot take on the step 2 challenge and if the right people will not.

What Does Not Work

  • Guiding change with weak task forces, single individuals, complex governance structures, or fragmented top teams
  • Not confronting the situation when momentum and entrenched power centers undermine the creation of the right group.
  • Trying to leave out or work around the head of the unit to be changed because he or she is “hopeless”


  • The Blues versus the Greens, Gary Lockhart (p.38)
  • The New and More Diverse Team, Tom Spector (p.43)
  • General Molo and I were Floating in the Water, Roland de Vries (p.49)
  • Meetings Down Under, Ross Divett, (p.55)

Step 3: Get the Vision Right

What Works

  • Trying to see — literally — possible futures
  • Visions that are so clear that they can be articulated in one minute or written up on one page.
  • Visions that are moving — such as a commitment to serving people
  • Strategies that are bold enough to make bold visions a reality.
  • Paying careful attention to the strategic question of how quickly to introduce change.

What Does Not Work

  • Assuming that linear or logical plans and budgets alone adequately guide behavior when you’re trying to leap into the future.
  • Overly analytic, financially based vision exercises
  • Visions of slashing costs, which can be emotionally depressing and anxiety creating
  • Giving people fifty-four logical reasons why they need to create strategies that are bolder than they have ever created before.


  • Painting Pictures of the Future, Charles Berry (p.62)
  • Cost versus Service, Ron Bingham (p.70)
  • The Plane Will Not Move, Debbie Collard (p.73)
  • The Body in the Living Room, Ron Marshall (p.78)

Step 4: Communicate for Buy In

p.84: More Than Data Transfer

  • I don’t see why we need to change that much
  • They don’t know what they’re doing
  • We’ll never be able to pull this off
  • Are these guys serious or is this part of some more complicated game I don’t understand?
  • Are they just trying to line their pockets at my expense?
  • Good heavens, what will happen to me?

In successful change efforts, a guiding team doesn’t argue with this reality, declaring it unfair or illogical. They simply find ways to deal with it. The key is one basic insight: Good communication is not just data transfer. You need to show people something that addresses their anxieties, that accepts their anger, that is credible in a very gut-level sense, and that evokes faith in the vision.

p.89: Our channels of communication are overstuffed. Such is the nature of modern life. But most of the flood of information is irrelevant to us, or marginally relevant at best..

p.91: We already know that instead of receiving 100 pages of your local city’s newspaper, you can get 2 pages from the Internet each day on topics of relevance to your life. If that’s possible, why not in an organization? In a similar vein, why should large numbers of people be stuck in meetings of marginal importance? We all hate this. It adds to information overload 9and to our anger). All this was a problem in a slowly changing world. With a much faster-paced world, the problem grows greatly.

p.94: Honest communication can help greatly with all but the most cynical of employees. The guiding team says, “We too are being asked to change. We, like you, won’t get it right immediately. That means there will be seeming inconsistencies between what we say and do. We need your help and support, just as we will do everything to give you our help and support.”

What Works

  • Keeping communication simple and heartfelt, not complex and technocratic.
  • Doing your homework before communicating, especially to understand what people are feeling.
  • Speaking to anxieties, confusion, anger, and distrust.
  • Ridding communication channels of junk so that important messages can go through.
  • Using new technologies to help people see the vision (intranet, satellites, etc.)

What Does Not Work

  • Undercommunicating, which happens all the time.
  • Speaking as though you are only transferring information.
  • Accidentally fostering cynicism my not walking the talk


  • Preparing for Q&A, Mike Davies and Kevin Bygate (p.84)
  • My Portal, Fred Woods (p.89)
  • Nuking the Executive Floor, Laura Tennison (p.92)
  • The Screen Saver, Ken Moran (p.95)

Step 5: Empower Action

p.108: Generic bureaucracy is still an issue, especially in the public sector, but today the performance evaluation and rewards part of the system is often the stickiest problem.
Evaluation and rewards can disempower when they are at odds with the direction of needed change. The new vision and strategies say X, but the bureaucracy not only does little to identify and reward X, it helps block what is needed.

p.120: Their first attempt to empower the workforce failed, and failed in a very common way: employees were given more decision making power; they were put in meetings in order to exercise that power; but they were given few guidelines, and few tools for eliminating real barriers. The mess that follows is predictable.

What Works

  • Finding individuals with change experience who can bolster people’s self-confidence with we-won-you-can-too anecdotes.
  • Recognition and reward systems that inspire, promote optimism, and build self-confidence.
  • Feedback that can help people make better vision-related decisions.
  • “Retooling” disempowering managers by giving them new jobs that clearly show the need for change.

What Does Not Work

  • Ignoring bosses who seriously disempower their subordinates.
  • Solving the boss problem by taking away their power (making them mad and scared) and giving it to their subordinates.
  • Trying to remove all the barriers at once.
  • Giving in to your own pessimism and fears


  • Retooling the Boss, Tim Wallace (p.104)
  • The Worldwide Competition, Louise Berringer (p.109)
  • I Survived, So You Can Too, Greg Hughes and Dalene McCann (p.113)
  • Making Movies on the Factory Floor, Rick Simmons (p.117)
  • Harold and Lydia, Jeff Collins (p.121)

Step 6: Create Short Term Wins

p.125: Without sufficient wins that are visible, timely, unambiguous, and meaningful to others, change efforts inevitably run into serious problems.


  • Wins provide feedback to change leaders about the validity of their visions and strategies
  • Wins give those working hard to achieve a vision a pat on the back, an emotional uplift.
  • wins build faith in the effort, attracting those who are not yet actively helping.
  • Wins take power away from cynics.

p.133: Too often we create wins that we see, but which others do not, at least not to the same degree. … In “New Navy,” a group very deliberately tried to avoid this problem by (1) clarifying the criteria for a good short-term win and (2) selecting projects based on that criteria.

p.136: In selecting where to focus first, a key criterion applied in “The Senator” was to assist a powerful person as soon as possible.

p.139: [stretching the truth, Hoopla] They did not understand clearly that wins must be unambiguous. The result was disastrous. When their credibility collapsed, even a legitimate win was viewed with suspicion.

What Works

  • Early wins that come fast.
  • wins that are as visible as possible to as many people as possible.
  • Wins that penetrate emotional defenses by being unambiguous.
  • Wins that are meaningful to others — the more deeply meaningful the better.
  • Early wins that speak to powerful players whose support you need and do not yet have.
  • Wins that can be achieved cheaply and easily, even if they seem small compared with the grand vision.

What Does Not Work

  • launching fifty projects all at once
  • Providing the first win too slowly.
  • Stretching the truth.


  • The List on the Bulletin Boards, Ross Kao (p.128)
  • Creating the New Navy, Rear Admiral John Totushek (p.130)
  • The Senator Owned a Trucking Company, Ron Bingham (p.135)
  • Hoopla, Dave Pariseau (p.137)

Step 7: Don’t Let Up

p.144: To keep you moving, in many situations, it’s going to be essential to have an external problem. If you are just going to beat up on people and say we have to do better, it doesn’t work. people don’t really believe you and it’s not at all productive. Making more money doesn’t do it either. there has to be something real that they can see outside that leads them to say “We haven’t made ourselves into the organization we should be. We need to do more. We need to try harder. I’m willing to try harder.”

p.150: somewhere in the waves of change, you will have to attack the sturdy silos and difficult politics or you won’t create a twenty-first-century organization. In the early stages of a transformation, the silos and politics can be too tough to handle. But eventually, you must choose to deal with this heavy lifting or you will never fulfill the vision.

p.152: In successful transformations the answer is, at one level, very simple: When you have too much work, jettison some. [cf.: Change Load]

p.152: … this was not incremental work. this was not “Do your job and add all this new activity.” If you were on a working team, that was part of your job. If there was other work to be done, we needed o reallocate it further down the hierarchy or not do it at all. This was, and still is, the only solution to the problem. … If we can identify, recognize, and agree on what people can stop doing, then we won’t feel so overwhelmed.

What Works

  • Aggressively ridding yourself of work that wears you down — tasks that were relevant in the past but not now, tasks that can be delegated.
  • Looking constantly for ways to keep urgency up.
  • Using new situations opportunistically (as in “The Street”) to launch the next wave of change.
  • As always — show ’em, show ’em, show ’em,.

What Does Not Work

  • Developing a rigid four-year plan (be more opportunistic)
  • convincing yourself that you’re done when you aren’t.
  • Convincing yourself that you can get the job done without confronting some of the more embedded bureaucratic and political behaviors.
  • Working so hard you physically and emotionally collapse (or sacrifice your off-the-job life).


  • PE Ratios, Leonard Schaeffer (p.144)
  • The Merchant of Fear, Phil Nolan and Steve Featherstone (p.147)
  • Reducing Twenty-Five pages to Two, Ken Moran and Rick Browning (p.152)
  • The Street, Jack Jacobs (p.155)

Step 8: Make Change Stick

p.162: Successful change is more fragile than we often think, or wish to think. All parents have at one time walked into a room of unruly children, stopped the foolishness, and restored order, only to discover that the order disappeared soon after the children were again alone. This is the making-change-stick problem in a very basic form.

p.175: Enterprises often try to shift culture first. The logic is straight-forward. If the culture is inward looking, risk averse, and slow, we’ll change that first. Then nearly any new vision can be implemented more easily. sounds reasonable, but it doesn’t work that way.
A culture truly changes only when a new way of operating has been shown to succeed over some minimum period of time. Trying to shift the norms and values before you have created the new way of operating does not work. The vision can talk of a new culture. you can create new behaviors that reflect a desired culture. But those new behaviors will not become norms, will not take hold, until the very end of the process.

What Works

  • Not stopping at step 7 — it isn’t over until the changes have roots.
  • Using new employee orientation to compellingly show recruits what the organization really cares about.
  • Using the promotion process to place people who act according to the new norms into influential and visible positions.
  • Telling vivid stories over and over about the new organization, what it does, and why it succeeds.
  • Making absolutely sure you have the continuity of behavior and results that help a new culture grow.

What Does Not Work

  • Relying on a boss or a compensation scheme, or anything but culture to hold a big change in place.
  • Trying to change culture as the first step in the transformation process.


  • The Boss Went to Switzerland, John Harris (p.162)
  • The Path to the Patient, Dr. Thomas Rossi (p.165)
  • Promoting the Thirty-Something, Arthur Sulzberger Jr. (p.171)
  • The Home Mortgage, Terry Pearce, Evelyn dilsaver, and Dan Leemon (p.173)


Primary Goals sits at the intersection of three core ideas about communication:
  • Leaders create vision by communicating a compelling future to their teams.
  • Teams create success based on how effectively the communicate and coordinate with each other.
  • Entrepreneurial ventures are successful only when they communicate value to people with a concern that the business can take care of
In all cases, it’s about Conversations for Committed Results.  That’s our Primary Goal.  



Copyright 2021 Primary Goals - Privacy Policy