Being a Catalyst for Change in a Large Organization

You may find yourself a part of an organization faced with what may seem to be daunting cultural issues. Bureaucracy and politics are the norm and bloated, unproductive processes has demoralized a good slice of your workforce.

Sooner or later, leaders in the company will recognize change must come or they are forced into it as the risk of losing quality people starts to become a reality.

Change initiatives come in many shapes and sizes and can originate from any place in the company. Whether formally or informally, you may find yourself with the opportunity to be a part of a “guiding coalition” or be a part of a team assigned to be the first to pilot Agile on a project.

Being a trailblazer for change is not easy and you will often be a target for doubters, skeptics, and cynics. There may be times when you may question whether the time spent advocating and driving new culture is even worth it.

Having been a part of culture change teams in the past, I have come up with a couple of thoughts to make this opportunity worthwhile and to be the catalyst your company needs:

Values and principles before change. Know what is important to you. Aligning your values with the values of the change you will be introducing will allow you to be more believable and energetic when engaging others. If you really don’t believe a change will be effective, people will see right through you.

Engage fully with your guiding coalition or pilot team. Be present and bring your whole self to the endeavor. I remember being a part of a change team a few years ago when I shied away from saying what I wanted to say or share my ideas. I look back now and realize a multitude of opportunities I missed to make an impact.

Target the best place to infect new behavior. Focus on your own piece of the world before trying to expand. Start small and create momentum. A colleague refers to this as unleashing a “healthy virus” in one team or area and let it spread.

Be patient but persistent. Change will take time. Especially if you are a part of an organization with a long legacy of dysfunction with stubborn challenges. Keep focusing on the areas you can impact and make small, incremental progress every day.

Keep yourself healthy. Whatever this means for you, maintain your overall well-being. Exercise, rest, time with friends, eating right…whatever it is, find the time. Being a catalyst on the front lines of change can be rough and stressful. Leverage others in your guiding coalition or like-minded peers to vent if you need to. A healthy change agent is an effective change agent.

Source of Inspiration:
John Kotter, The 8 Step Process for Leading Change


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5 thoughts on “Being a Catalyst for Change in a Large Organization

  1. Good list Len. I love that you have Health on the list. It’s hard to be effective if you aren’t well. Thanks for the tips – Mark D.

  2. As someone going through a (so far successful!) change effort in my organization, I can attest to the importance of sowing seeds rather than clearcutting. This is a variation on the theme above of “Target the best place to infect new behavior.” Work on individuals here and there. Find the people who are like-minded, and discuss the change with them. Take little actions. Talk it up to others here and there. Suddenly, the little bits add up and a wave begins.