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Leading Change through the Six batteries of Change

Not just another theory!

Written by Geert Letens

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Change – the new normal? Scary…

We live in a complex and uncertain world that is changing faster than ever. Disruptive technologies, digital transformation, climate change, social turbulence, economic shifts, … Change has become the new normal. Unfortunately, successfully leading organizations through change remains a daunting task. For more than three decades researchers and consulting agencies report that up to 70% of all change initiatives fail. They fail to achieve or sustain performance results. Or even worse, they never even manage to fully implement their change program - they simply run out of fuel as they fail to deal with employee resistance in an effective way.

Sure - there are plenty of frameworks and approaches to change management available to guide you. Kotter’s famous book on ‘Leading change’ as well as Beer and Nohria’s ‘Cracking the code of change’ are definitely still worth reading. Literally every consultancy agency promotes their change model as the whole grail for change management.

The sad truth is, however, that most of them lack empirical evidence. Yes, there are plenty theories that speculates on factors of success or failure. But in reality, most hypotheses about successful management of change are poorly supported by sound research. This leads to a wide range of sometimes contradictory theories, and what’s more, great confusion on how to lead change in practice.

The batteries of change – a whole new ball game

That’s why the batteries of change model is so different. So unique. Through a five-year research project collecting information from more than 500 executives of 111 organizations of different size and industry, we have identified six critical sources of energy – six batteries of change – that great leaders use to boost their organization’s change success. Some of the batteries deal more with the strategic side of the spectrum, while other batteries typically focus on the operational side of change. The top three batteries capture the more formal and rational elements of change, while the bottom three batteries are essential to charge the informal and emotional side of change.

Literally everyone we have talked to agrees the model makes a lot of sense from a conceptual perspective. But that’s just theory of course. They real power comes from the fact that the model has been tested through the analysis of a validated survey. The construct validity of each battery score is high (cronbach alpha’s range from .85 to .92). The success criteria (change process effectiveness, hard and soft organizational results) are not just anecdotal but are derived from factor analysis.

As such we were able to demonstrate that every battery is strongly correlated with change success. You can increase your success rate by charging a particular battery. Sadly, the inverse is also true. A battery that starts leaking energy reduces your probably of success.

Leading Change Through the Six Batteries of Change battery

All for one – one for all!

The most important message, however, is that the probability of sustained success largely depends on the number of batteries that are addressed at once. We found that only 30% of the organizations that managed to charge two batteries or less considered their change programs as successfull. An astonishing 95% of the organizations that charged five to six batteries reported change success.

In other words, in an environment of constant change, you have to develop capabilities that allow you to charge all your change batteries. Some of you may be familiar with the expressing “culture eats strategy for breakfast” – energizing your strategy battery with an empty culture battery won’t get you far. However, culture without strategy won’t get you through the day either. The same is true with project improvement that fails to involve employees, or a top team that only pays lipservice to their management infrastructure.

So think about it when you are starting a new change journey. Change – yes we can – at least, provided that you charge all your batteries. All for one – one for all!

Perhaps you have witnessed similar contrasts or energy gaps in your own organization. We look forward to hearing about them. Just add a comment or post below!

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Geert Letens.

Geert is a civil engineer by training (Royal Military Academy and KU Leuven) with a PhD in Social & Military Sciences (RMA) and Applied Economics (UGent), who holds the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel in the Belgian Army.That aside, he’s a Management Skills professor at RMA, a Research Fellow at the Vlerick Business School, and an active member of the board of the American Society for Engineering Management, the Institute of Industrial Engineers and the Society for Engineering and Management Systems.

 

To top it all off, he’s a specialist in OD & Change, Lean Product Development, Supply Chain Management and Integrated Performance Management. Yes, we know, that’s quite impressive. Especially since it was his research that led to the development of the Six Batteries model.If you can catch him not working, he’ll most likely be playing pool with his daughter

 

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