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Making Change Happen in the 21st Century: From Amateur Cook to Master Chef

Making Change Happen in the 21st Century: From Amateur Cook to Master Chef

Note: The title's metaphor comes from Dr Peter Fuda, international authority on transformational change.

There is little doubt that we are all currently facing unprecedented challenges in a world characterized by volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity (VUCA.) Most of us feel the pressure to grow and improve our services while resources are under greater pressure than ever. We are asked to keep on top of a huge workload while juggling competing priorities. It is often hard to predict what will happen next. The future is not like the past, and the scale of disruption is large, as we are all required to change the way we do things. No one is immune to the threats and opportunities this new normal presents.

Change is an inevitable part of organizational life in the 21st century, so we need practical and effective ways to bring about change. As if there is not enough change already, the way we change is also in flux, and we need to adapt to the new reality of the 21st century. Most organizations still use step-by-step, plan-driven approaches to change conceived in more stable times when such shifts were slow and gradual, and there was time for the dust to settle before the next change emerged. This is pure fantasy in our fast-paced, complex world.

Like everything else, our approaches to change need to be more dynamic and responsive, involving and equipping leaders and change agents. This mismatch of approaches to change for our current complex context results in failure for our change efforts. Indeed, many experts estimate that 70% of all change projects fail to achieve their desired outcomes. In this context, there is no place for the old linear models of unfreeze-change-refreeze. Instead, we need different and effective approaches. This shift requires us to let go of following a step-by-step recipe the way of an amateur cook and be more able to act like a master chef altering a recipe depending on the changing context (available ingredients, the season, needs of the customer, etc.)

The good news is there is growing evidence emerging from academics and change leaders around the world that give us useful ways to make successful, sustainable change happen. In a departure from traditional approaches to change, a few key principles and practices have been consistently identified as important enablers of successful change. What they all have in common may surprise you.

Essentially, these key principles focus away from linear, plan-based methods. They instead focus on people and stakeholders and on developing leadership, true engagement, relationships, trust, influence, alignment, and collaboration.

Dr. Peter Fuda, an international authority on transformation, suggests that a robust change process is a people thing and a community thing and not an intellectual thing. He goes on to say that successful change is 10% technical competence (phases, steps, expertise) and 90% emotional intelligence. While there is still a need for some process, unprecedented change requires a much greater focus on people to build a solid foundation for change. Capturing the minds and hearts of intelligent people comes down to a few simple (yet not easy) things. There is a strong link, supported by recent research, between successful change and these people-driven approaches.


Create Relevant and Shared Purpose for the Change

  • Provide a powerful "why?" and a story that captures the goal and what people want. Help people see it and feel it.
  • Make it a community priority.


Build Energy and Readiness for Change

  • Work with people, start small, and grow a community for the change.
  • Build trust by involving people. Give people a stake in it and a hand in shaping the future. The more complex the change, the more involvement is required.
  • Go local. Contact and trust your community -- those who need to adopt the change. Know where people are at by monitoring and understanding levels of support and doubt.
  • Connect and influence. It is the community being built as a result of our change efforts that will determine if the change is successful, relevant, and sustainable.


Get Started

  • Make it less onerous and focus on elements that will make the greatest difference.
  • Start with early adopters who will model the new way and begin to build momentum.
  • Change habits. Habits are the building blocks of behavioural change. All change is behavioural change.


Provide Support and Learn Together

  • Learn together, leverage learning in the community, and adjust based on lessons learned.
  • Remember, this is not a one-time execution but a journey.


Achieve and Monitor Results

  • Make progress visible, starting with the small, early wins.
  • Go for progress and not perfection.


Develop Ourselves as Change Agents

  • Develop and practice new relational skills. We need more than our expertise, knowledge, and analytical abilities.

In a VUCA world where change is constant and complex, where we are all required now to bring about positive change, and where there is a gap between our current change approaches and what works, the only viable solution is to up your changeability. Attend our session on November 15th to get started and learn how to facilitate relevant change that improves our organizations and our world.






Rhnoda St. Croix, Associations, Leadership, Governance




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