Leading and Defining Change

One of the major areas where I'm doing a lot of thinking these days because of some of my continuing education is in the area of leading change. Lots of organizations - secular, sacred, for-profit, non-profit - don't do change well.

I think the number one reason change fails in organizations is that those leading the change fail to define precisely what kind of change they're leading toward. If the goal and the path aren't defined on the front end, the only way they'll be reached is by accident.

When it comes to change, there are at least 4 different kinds of change:

1. Re-packaging - This is when an organization is keeping the exact same thing but giving it a different look. This kind of change rarely works because the only change it provides is cosmetic. Still, on occasion, all that is needed is a facelift and re-packaging is the direction to go.

2. Re-branding - Similar to re-packaging in that neither affect any kind of wholesale change to the actual product or philosophy, although re-branding carries more than just a cosmetic punch. Re-branding usually involves re-packaging something in such a way that an attribute that was present but previously unnoticed is brought to light.

3. Re-modeling - Re-modeling takes an existing structure but refashions it to meet a new purpose. This is often tricky in organizations because just as in remodeling a house, certain load-bearing structures may not be movable. Re-modeling often involves a complete change in the look, purpose, and feel of an organization, program, or philosophy.

4. Renovation - Renovation involves the complete rebuilding of an organization or program that might or might not resemble the previous structure at all.

All of these have benefits and all of these have perils. The biggest peril, however, comes when organizations or leaders miss which type of change they're leading. If you're aiming for re-modeling but only re-package, you'll crash and burn. If you're aiming for re-packaging and communicate renovation, the organization might not ever recover.