Change In Organisations: Encouraging Change

It is easy to talk about change, just like the children’s story of the cat and the bell (creating the idiom of belling the cat); it is easier said than done. The challenge is to create a desire to change, to move and to progress; without creating the raw panic that sends individuals into a state of fear.

There is often misquoted Darwin statement that ‘only the strongest survive’; when in fact he framed the statement as ‘those who are best at adapting to changing circumstances will survive’. In today’s age, we need to be adaptable and ready to change. As leaders, we need to lead and direct change.

How do we get people to adapt and change in a positive and healthy way? As discussed in previous blog posts on the Challenge of Change and the Stress of Change, change is experienced in a very individual way. What is easy for one individual is not the same for another. We encourage change when we create the right variables for change.


The process or need for change can be illustrated with an equation for change. While this is a simple way of illustrating what variables are needed to achieve change, either for an individual or for an organisation; it does show the need to intentionally lead a change process. (The change equation is documented at the bottom of this blog post if you would like to have a look).

Without arguing the merits of a change equation model, the need for an intention by a leader to manage the change process in really important. As leaders, we need to set a course for the change. Such a course or vision is not always clear, but someone needs to hold the steering.

Providing leadership for change must be done by providing a steady hand. In some respects this is balancing situations of the ‘burning platform’ and the ‘staying stagnant’. It is all about vision, direction and leadership.

There are so many companies and industries that have fallen victim to keeping the status quo, for not acting on the burning platform: the music and retail industry and moving online; through to companies such as Kodak and Blackberry who got lost in their past success. All are well documented situations that show that the status quo is never good space to hold. The keeping status quo is never a good enough reason to not change but ignoring a burning building is probably worse.

Change is an iterative process of small steps. I worked with a group of partners who would often say; ‘you climb Mount Everest by putting one foot in front of another’. Stories of the ‘boiling frog’ and the ‘eastern and western camel’ are great for illustrating the point. Small steps to facilitate change are so important. You build trust and create momentum. Some organisations use models such as agile programmeing to create short term change projects; which are great for IT projects. However, culture change can be tricker.



In organisations, we have differing generations, personalities and styles; mixed with cultures, contexts and experience; this is all mixed into an organisation’s culture and values. In today’s age, which is now seen as the concept age rather that the knowledge age, adaptability is the key skill to survival and success. Some people will choose not to change, it is their choice.

We we need to prepare our staff for this ability to adapt and change in a personal and individual context and this is achieved through over communication and high levels of engagement. While seem as time wasting by many, proving opportunities to listen, ask questions and connect; organisations will be able to ensure most if not all those who are travelling through the change are succeeding; they are also building the capability to succeed again in the future.

Change is a personal journey that needs to be lead with intention, communication and patience. Each change process is about supporting the individual to achieve their success, balancing the move of the organisation.

At Cedar Consulting, we work with organisations to facilitate change at a structure, process and culture levels. We partner with leaders to direct and steer the change process. This ensures great success for the change process and the organisation as they pioneer into the future. For a discussion on how we can help you, email us on:

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The original formula (By Gleicher and published by Beckhard) is defined as: C = (ABD) > X

C = change

A = Dissatisfaction with the status quo

B = Desired clear state or Vision for the Future

D = Practical steps to the desired state

X = Cost of the change (this cost is both psychological and financial)

The Dannemiller version of the equation is as follows: C = D x V x F > R

Three factors must be present for meaningful organizational change to take place. These factors are:

D = Dissatisfaction with how things are now

V = Vision of what is possible

F = First, concrete steps that can be taken towards the vision

If the product of these three factors is greater than

R = Resistance

then change is possible.

The key differences between the two equations is the Resistance (R) and the Cost (X). The principle remains that for change to occur, both the resistance and the cost need to be understood and address. In order for this to happen, each variable in the change equation needs to be addressed in the organisation.

Other change specialists argue that the equation is as follows: Vision + Skills + Incentive + Resources + Action Plan = Change


Change In Organisations: The Stress of Change


The thing about change can be stressful, it is filled with the unknown. The challenge is that if we sit in our comfort zones, we do not learn or grow. We become stagnant. Organisations that do not adapt, die. While change is an inevitable part of life, within organisations there are people; individuals are involved and this is where the challenge lies.

If you think that 100 years ago, a company that made horse buggies would have a very successful business. Not that many years later, such a business would be struggling to survive if surviving at all. Fifteen years ago, businesses such as Google, Facebook, Twitter, AirBnB, Uber were either in their infancy or not even possible. We need to adapt and change, but this is not an easy or simple exercise, especially for people.

Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.

George Bernard Shaw

When we are comfortable, and things are easy; we live in our comfort zone. This is a realistically easy space, we are not learning, nothing is changing. Being out of our comfort zone pushes us to a space of stress: Eustress or Distress.

Eustress is good stress, the positive learning stress; it is the butterflies in our stomach, the excitement and positive emotion without the fear. It motivates us to do something that is not in our comfort zone. It is different to distress which is the fear and panic, the fight flight stress. The stress that makes our minds go blank, our palms sweat and overwhelm us with the desire to run screaming from the building.

The  challenging part is that eustress and distress are based on who perceives the stress rather than the stress itself. It is totally subjective. This is an incredible challenge for leaders in leading organisations. This is especially given the rise in stress-related medical challenges and high profile resignations or medical leave.

We need to encourage people to be in eustress but avoid distress; the challenge is that each individual will react to changes differently. Getting this balance right is one of the challenges of leadership.

Our next post will talk about encouraging change in organisations to engage the eustress in individuals and getting the balance right between eustress and distress.

This series will explore the area of change and how organisations can facilitate and adapt to the changing world. Subscribe to the Cedar Consulting blog to follow our perspective on change and feel free to post comments and thoughts.

This was published in ( The rest of this series will explore the area of change and how organisations can facilitate and adapt to the changing world. Subscribe to the Cedar Consulting blog to follow our perspective on change and feel free to post comments and thoughts.

Change In Organisations: The Challenge of Change

There is the famous apocryphal chinese curse, “may you live in interesting times” which suggests that change is both interesting and a challenge. As people, we wrestle with change; we are excited by the prospect of things changing for the better (as sung by Bob Dylan and Sheryl Crow) and yet terrified of the negative consequences that change might bring; feeling out of control and not able to cope with the change.

The same applies in organisations; yet it is the change of the collective. How do we keep evolving and changing which is necessary for survival and growth and still manage the fear of change?




I once worked in an organisation where there was a change in the colour of the payslips; if I remember correctly, it went from green to purple. For context, this organisation was one of regular change. Nothing ever seemed to stay still. Yet, when this change was made, a long standing member of staff came to ask, “why did we change the colour?”. After a number of back and forth comments, the real question emerged, “what was wrong with the last colour” and “why did it need to change?”

The answer was there was no need or requirement to change; but it was a natural change. The positive outcome was that the staff seemed to actually look at their payslips again. This story highlights the fact that the idea of change is complex, here was someone who was used to change but found certainty in the consistency of certain things, such as the colour of their payslips.

I often define people on the principle of “change fragile” or “change agile”. Some individuals respond to change with a welcome enthusiasm and others run as fast as they can.

How can we create organisations that are ‘change agile’ and not ‘change fragile’? Well, as always, it starts with the people.

This was published in ( The rest of this series will explore the area of change and how organisations can facilitate and adapt to the changing world. Subscribe to the Cedar Consulting blog to follow our perspective on change and feel free to post comments and thoughts.


Previously in my twitter feed, I made a number of comments about Experts. I suppose I asked for it. I get hundreds of people promising me that they are experts, especially those in social media. Malcolm Gladwell says that it takes 10 000 hours to become an expert. My comments (which seemed to cause all the disagreement) was “Malcolm Gladwell “10000 hours to become an expert”-but 10000 hours on fb doesn’t make a social media expert – just someone with time on fb”.

There were a number of comments passed on that one. The comment came out of my frustration with so-called experts. I have people who spend loads of time on facebook and then claim that they are experts on social media. It is the same with consultants, teachers and other so called experts.

An “Ex” is a “has been” and a “Spirt” is a “Drip Under Pressure” – interesting view. But the real question is what makes an expert?

E-Learning: Does it Really Work?

I have been exploring using a Digital Learning system for my organisation. The drivers are simple: Reduce costs, especially printing and courier fees and assist with the learning that needs to occur in remote locations. It has been interesting journey in research and exploring this. In some respects, it has been incredible frustrating.

Traditional e-learning or CBT is a process that focuses on the individual learner interacting with a computer or passive sets of information that respond to triggers from the learner. All potential Artificial Intelligence potential aside, CBT is a passive learning medium. It is highly over-rated and the retention ability to create understanding of complex issues. The e-learning model is uses the presentation learning methodology; presenting information to the learner, for him or her to absorb.

The challenge with this model is that most technology solutions is that focus on either a passive learning mode or a presentation model of learning. I have explored some of the following technology options:
* Adobe Connect Pro (
* Moodle (
* Blackboard (
This list is relatively endless, the challenge is getting the right search criteria on Google 🙂

There is very little that I can see that uses a digital alternative to the facilitation methodology involving a learner driven process. I have seen a large amount of interaction around the use of Web 2.0 in Learning and I want to explore this in more detail.

I am still not able to answer the question around e-learning, as I cannot even test it properly yet. So I will get back to you on that one.

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Real Learning versus Traditional Learning

When considering the modern methods of teaching delivery in a corporate environment or even a tertiary institution like a university, it works on a simple premise: The All Knowing Lecturer / Teacher will impart his or her infinite wisdom on the dumb masses to absorb and regurgitate in a manner pleasing to the All Knowing One (AKO). Once the AKO has finished his or her diatribe, the mere mortals can ask questions. Some times you get a Wise AKO, who allows you to ask questions as they go along. Sadly, this anecdotal is really what happens. Some time you even get a PowerPoint presentation (or if they are really up to date; a Keynote one).

Interesting enough, David A. Kolb (, developed an experintial learning cycle which follows this process:
* You have a Concrete Experience
* You observe and Reflect on that experience
* As a result, you Form Abstract Concepts
* You then Test these concepts. by having another Concrete Experience

In a lecture-type environment, does a learner truly have concrete experience? Generally, the learner has to form the abstract concepts on his or her own. The effectiveness of this methodology can really be questioned. This is because the learner has to form a question out of the information thrown at them. This is the attempt at Reflection. The concepts are never tested by the learner. Therefore, you can argue that the learner does not truly learn anything.

In order to encourage learning, the questions should precede the content. By doing this, one begins where the learner is in the learning process. It also gives the learner an understanding of where to put the content.

Real Learning starts with the Question not with the Answer.

IT & Corporate Life

I find it fascinating how shortsighted many businesses are regarding technology. The simple lack of planning and integration of various practices in terms of different departments and the opportunity for collaboration.

The concept of Web 2.0 is being driven by Marketing and not by IT, HR or the Executives. The opportunity for collaboration, marketing, recruitment and operational productivity improvements is enormous.

I am not just talking about making a Facebook group or a Myspace page. It?s not just about putting a digg button on your site or just having a forum or corporate blog. As a beginning, I am talking about integrating of corporate search, creating collaborative tools with you staff through learning and, your suppliers through the improvements in delivery strategies (In South Africa, Ince are doing some interesting things, – I don?t work for them!).

Some people suggest that IT needs to empower themselves ( I would tend to agree. But most IT is focused on their comfort zones. Generally, their are MS bunnies, Open Sources hamsters and the clueless rabbits. Corporate IT is not always able to make the paradigm move to realise their need to integrate themselves with other aspects of the business and focus on the business as a whole. IT need to improve their ability to change the business and not focus purely on license costs and bandwidth that enable them to be lazy coders or Bit-torrent hogs.

Enough of a rant today 🙂

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How People Learn

If you think back to university or even school; think about how you went about learning something. We have so many preconceptions around how people learn because of those experiences. We think we need to learn from the experts all the time; the teachers have to know everything! Is this really true?

Did you not also learn by watching someone and then trying it yourself? Did you not learn by figuring something out? (And then feel really pleased with yourself for doing so?)

In today?s society (especially at work), we expect people to learn really quickly, without guidance and get it right. These expectations are not necessarily appropriate because they are unrealistic.

People learn in a systematic way. That way or manner may differ based on a truckload of different theories, but everyone learns in a systematic way. There are some guidelines for the manner in which people learn; some would call them rules, but for me, they are guidelines.

These guidelines for the basis for all the work that I do. I try and never deviate from them:

  1. Learning is a skill. it requires practice. Some people learn quickly and are more talented naturally in this regard; others need some help. This is not about how ?bright? someone is. It is like everything, some people are good at it and some people need some help.
  2. Learning is an activity: Learning is not passive. You have to do things to learn. You cannot learn to ballroom dance, play football by reading a book.
  3. Learning is a social activity: We learn with other people. Think about school or university, or even at work: How many times have you asked the person next to you about something: ?How do I do that??, ?How does that work?? or ?What did he mean??
  4. Learning is messy and people need to be able to learn without feeling like they have to get it right first time. An advertisement in South Africa for a washing liquid said it all: ?No mess, no learning?. Therefore, we have to make space for learning and let people make (appropriate) mistakes.
  5. Learning always needs to begin at the starting point, but that does not have to be at the beginning. The best place to start (often) is the most important part or the foundation. Often we start at the history – to be honest, is it important that people know the history of the organistion in order for people to do their jobs?
  6. Learning changes the learner. When someone learns something, they change. They must change, otherwise they have not learnt anything. But in order for the change to be real, they must be able to practice their learning.
  7. Learning is about quality: Why is it we send the guy who cannot do things to teach others: Those who can do, those why can?t teach. Some say, those that cannot teach, consult. I have done both – what does that make me 🙂. It is paramount in the global skill shortage that the best facilitators and the best leaders should be preparing the so called next generation of workers!

Anyway, this is a start! There is loads more stuff, but I will try and make things manageable in terms of length!