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ChangeThis

The Hazards of Leading Culture Change

Chip R. Bell, John R. Patterson

August 12, 2009

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"When great starts have poor endings, it can leave change pioneers disappointed, hard working organizers disheartened, and skeptics with proof they were correct all along. It makes the next initiative more challenging to launch and the next set of resistors more defiant. However, without needed change the organization risks losing its competitive advantage. Losing its edge makes it harder to attract and retain the best talent and resources, and in today's economy, the death knell begins. Planned change takes courage and tenacity. Even organizations with a burning platform, effective leaders, and well-crafted plans can sometimes miss the mark because they fail to recognize early signals that the seeds for derailment are being sown or they fail to realize the power of the signals they are sending via decisions that are unsupportive of the culture change commitment. Derailment is much more likely during periods of organizational anxiety from economic challenge, organizational shift (like a major merger or new competitor), or a change in senior leadership. However, these high profile hazards are easier to spot and therefore simpler to combat. It is the more subtle shifts that can do the most damage before their presence is even noticed."

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