Why We Need To Do Change Differently

In the twenty-first century we need to be doing change differently. Whole-system change methodologies such as Appreciative Inquiry and World Café offer alternative ways of creating organisational change and are explained in my new book Positive Psychology and Change


So Why Do We Need To Do Change Differently

1. Because the old ways are too slow and hard

Traditionally change has been a top-down, linear, compliance process; first designed and then implemented. In today’s fast paced world this takes too long and is too hard. People resist the pressure. Instead we need change that is whole-system owned and generated, focused on maximising tomorrow not fixing yesterday.


2. Because the future is created by our actions and our imagination

Forecasting is tricky in an unpredictable world of disjointed and disruptive change. When it’s hard to plan a future we need to use our imagination to create attractive possibilities that inspire us, co-ordinate our efforts and pull us forward. Our analytic powers help us analyse data, our imaginative powers create hope, optimism and forward motion i.e. change.


3. Because organisational growth is a systemic phenomena

The evidence is mounting that good work places and profitability can grow together; that beyond a certain point of profitability-establishment greater returns come from investing in social capital features like workforce morale, camaraderie, worker benefits, and community action. And from ensuring that employees feel hopeful, encouraged and appreciated.

Timberland, Merek Corporation, Cascade, Synovus Financial Corporation, FedEx Freight, Southwest Airlines, The Green Mountain Coffee Corporation, Fairmount Minerals and the Marine Corp are all testament to the possibility of doing the right thing and doing well. The current edition of Firms of Endearment lists 28 US publicly funded companies, 29 US private companies and 15 Non-US companies that are good organizations and exceptionally profitable.


4. Because relational reserves are key to change resilience

Organisational resilience, an attribute called on during change, is as important to organisational change success as financial reserves. Relational reserves are an expression of the accumulated goodwill and mutual trust that helps organizations bounce-back quicker from disruption or trauma.


5. Because we need to conceive of successful change differently

Pushing change into, down or through an organization takes too long. We need ways of achieving organization change that allow action to happen simultaneously in an interconnected way across the organization, not as a dependent series of actions. To relish this we need to recast our understanding of both change and success to allow the celebration of adaptation, direction shift and even project abandonment, rather than viewing these as signs of failure.


6. Because mistakes can be costly

Separating the change shapers from the change implementers and recipients can be costly as errors in understanding, judgement and knowledge only come to light when time and money (not to mention hope and commitment) have already been invested. People pointing out such challenges late in the day risk being labelled as obstructive or resistant. Better to involve those who will be effecting any changes from the very beginning.


7. Because change needs more buyers and less sellers

Have you ever walked into a shop, money in hand, keen to buy only to leave empty-handed frustrated by the salesperson’s emphasis on selling rather than listening to you? Maybe they dazzled with jargon, or listed irrelevant features, or tried to push their favourite version on to you despite its unsuitability to your situation? At its worse organisational change can feel like a bad sales job. Good salespeople ask questions and listen before they talk, so should organizations.


8. Because we need to use our intelligence

The world is a demanding place to do business. Organizations need to be able to access the intelligence of all involved. We need leaderful organizations not leader-dependent ones.


Much more about the need to do change differently and guidance on how to do it, can be found in my new book Positive Psychology and Change


Other Resources

Much more about strengths and managerial techniques such as the ones mentioned here can be found in Sarah’s new book Positive Psychology and Change

Sarah Lewis is the owner and principal psychologist of Appreciating Change. She is author of ‘Positive Psychology at Work’ and ‘Positive Psychology for Change’ both published by Wiley. She is also the lead author of 'Appreciative Inquiry for Change Management', by Kogan Page, the second edition is out in September.

See more ChangeLeadership, Resistance To Change and Thought Provoking articles in the Knowledge Warehouse.



Appreciating Change is skilled and experienced at supporting leaders in working in this challenging, exciting and productive way with their organizations. Find out more by looking at how we help with LeadershipCulture change and with employee Engagement.

For further information on these alternative approaches to change, please contact us or phone 07973 782 715. A selection of strength card packs are available from our online store.