Did you know that approximately 70% of organizational
change initiatives fail? Why is that?
According to my own work on
five continents and a cursory review of the literature, the main reason
organizational change initiatives fail is because they do not adequately address the people side of change.
What do I mean by the people side of
People are at the heart of
our organizations. They include everyone from the CEO, Senior Management Team,
Middle Managers, Team Leaders and Employees. They also include key stakeholders.
How do you address the people side of
CEO and Senior Management Team –The key ingredient here is for CEOs and their Senior
Management teams to be clear on why they
are initiating a change – be it a culture change, reorganization,
leadership change, new strategic plan … AND communicate that “why” clearly down through all layers of an
organization. That said it is not enough
to communicate the change, it is important for others in the organization
to take ownership of the change (more
about that later).
Another important aspect is
that a CEO and their Senior Management Team understand change and how they typically respond to it. Some key
questions to think about are: On a scale from 1 to 10, how do you typically
respond to change? One being “It scares
me to death” and 10 being “I thrive
on it”. My experience has been that most leaders rate themselves from 8 to
10. They tend to thrive on change. However, there may be others on their teams
who are 4s or 5s. If so, it is important to be aware of that, open up the
conversation, and discuss how those folks may be supported throughout the
When a CEO is open about
change, acknowledges that many of us fear change, provides opportunities for
their people to learn how to embrace change versus resist it and models
this behavior for others, it improves the chances of success of an
organizational change initiative.
How do you embrace versus resist change?
Based on more than 25 years of
consulting and coaching with individuals and organizations on 5 continents, I’ve designed a 5-step process called “The Art of
Change Framework” to support leaders and their organizations to embrace change.
It is underpinned by the belief that “embracing
change is a creative process that opens us up to new possibilities”. It is
also supported by evidence from neuroscience, eastern psychology and
This process is best implemented on the “front end” of an organizational change
initiative and lays the foundation for that initiative. It works best in an
experiential workshop(s) format where leaders and their teams have the
opportunity to learn about change together, explore how they respond to change
and why, and receive tools to support them as they move into a change process.
The Value Add? When people learn about change and how they respond to
it, that not only supports their engagement, motivation, productivity and
positivity in the workplace, it also improves their personal lives.
I’ve included an excerpt from
“The Art of Change Framework: A Guide to Personal and Organizational Change”
below to illustrate the differential impacts between embracing versus resisting
change (full document available at https://pamela-thompson.com/).
What happens in Ourselves, Our Relationships and Our Workplaces when We
Resist Change versus Embrace it?
|We view change as a threat ||We view change as an |
opportunity to learn and grow and as a creative process that opens us up to new
Low in energy
The increased stress over time
negatively impacts our health; can
lead to chronic illness and
negatively affect our career paths
Over time we are more relaxed,
more flexible and open to creative
ideas. Our health may be positively impacted as we feel supported by
those around us and that we are
contributing to something greater than ourselves; may positively
impact our career paths
|In our interactions with others we:|
Are not totally present
May be argumentative
|In our interactions with others we:|
Seek to understand and support
We feel alone,
victimized and that others don’t
Characterized by increased understanding, creativity and compassion
We feel part of something and
|Increased conflict – |
“us” versus “them”
Increased illness and absenteeism
Negative impact on the bottom line
collaboration and synergy
Creativity and Innovation
Positive impact on the bottom line
As leaders of teams,
organizations or community groups, it is essential that you understand change
and how you respond to it and also understand your team members and how they
typically respond to change. By engaging in facilitated experiential workshops
on the Art of Change, the
understanding among team members will increase and resistance toward a change
process, be it a reorganization, new leadership, new project or new strategic
plan, will decrease.
Providing Opportunities for people from various layers of the organization to input into the change process such as answering the question: How will the change affect me? And How can we as a team best support and positively contribute to the change initiative? AND the leadership taking those responses into consideration, is important. This includes input from key stakeholders which may be obtained through telephone interviews, focus groups, facilitated workshops … . Providing opportunities for people to input into the change process not only may provide interesting suggestions and perspectives, it will also build ownership for the change. People by nature, want to be respected, valued and feel like they belong; and enabling them to input into a change process supports these basic needs.
My experience has been that
when we provide the opportunity for people at various levels to input into a
change process, they often contribute ideas and suggestions that senior
management is not aware of/cannot see from their organizational vantage point.
In a recent episode of “The Art of Change” radio talk show, my guest, Shelley Gilberg, partner in PricewaterhouseCoopers, and experienced organizational change expert, noted that one reason many change initiatives fail is because “we cut off support too early to sustain change initiatives” – For more details check out: https://www.spreaker.com/user/bbm_global_network/the-art-of-change-show-9. Providing people at various layers of the organization the opportunity to receive training and support and instituting “check points” along the way for people to identify how they feel and why is important. This is also supported by Brene Brown’s interviews with a large sample of leaders from both public and private sector organizations.
There is strong evidence that
the reason why many organizational change initiatives fail is because they do
not adequately address the people side of change. When we provide opportunities
for people from various layers of an organization, as well as key stakeholders
to input into a change process, when the CEO and Senior Management Team are
clear on why they are initiating a new change and communicate that effectively
throughout an organization and model positive change behaviors, and when leaders
and their teams from various levels in an organization are provided the
opportunity in experiential workshops to learn about change and explore how
they respond to it, the chances of success of an organizational change
Learning and implementing the
5-step Art of Change Framework helps
you as a leader understand how you respond to change and is a tool to support
you and your team(s) to embrace it. In these challenging and uncertain times,
now more than ever, we need proven processes to support individuals and leaders
in communities, governments and organizations to create successful change
initiatives and through those efforts make a positive difference in the world.
While vacationing in Mexico a
few months ago, I was lazing by the pool and decided to do some journaling. I
asked myself the question: What do I
really want in my life? Here are some of the answers that came to me:
- I want a new
- I want to
- I enjoy
- I want to
make a positive difference in the world
- I would like
someone else to promote me.
Within several weeks of
returning home, I received a phone call from someone from an advertising and
promotional company out of New York specializing in internet radio broadcasting.
They have a global audience that surpasses 50 million listeners. The representative
said that his analytics department had found me on the web and they felt that
there was a niche that I could fill based on my background and experience. We
set up a time for him to give me the details. He said that the niche included
women entrepreneurs, leaders, women in business, high achieving women, and
those aspiring to be leaders and entrepreneurs.
I was then offered the opportunity to host my own weekly internet radio talk show. It was to be my show, my own intellectual property that would stream live on Bold Brave Media’s global network and Tunein Radio to start and would be archived on http://boldbravemedia.com/about-us/.
I was excited about the
possibilities so I signed a contract and embarked on a new adventure as an
internet radio talk show host! It’s been fun the last couple of months learning
about radio and being trained by the Head of Production, an amazing guy with 40
years of experience in the business. My home office now is a studio with a huge
microphone on a moveable arm, and some BIG headphones!
I’m excited to share that
“The Art of Change” radio show launches
June 5, 2019 and will be live weekly
on Wednesdays from 3 to 4 pm Pacific/6 to 7 pm Eastern. The first show will
lay the foundation for future shows and will focus on change, the impacts of
resisting versus embracing it, and will walk you through a practical process
and strategies to embrace change. In future shows, I will be interviewing
inspiring women leaders and changemakers from around the globe and asking them
questions about key changes they’ve made in their lives, key challenges faced and
their lessons learned. You will have the
opportunity to phone in to a 1-800# and ask questions.
The intention for the show is
to create an informative, safe and supportive space for women to tune in to
weekly and phone in (if they feel comfortable doing so) and get their questions
answered about change, leadership, entrepreneurship, creating a social movement
I extend an invitation for you to listen to my first show on June 5th starting at 3 pm Pacific/6 pm Eastern and weekly thereafter at the same time. To access the show you can either download the Tuneinradio app on your phone (visit http://ww1.tuneinradio.com/ ) and listen there going to bbmglobalnetwork and then to the name of the show “The Art of Change”. You may also go directly to http://boldbravemedia.com/ at the scheduled time and click on the show on channel 100. If you’re unable to listen live, you may listen later or download the show from the boldbravemedia site under my name.
I’m excited to have you join me on this new adventure
and welcome your thoughts and suggestions of topics to cover, questions you’d
like answered and potential inspiring women leaders and changemakers to
interview. Please share your comments and suggestions below or email me.
It’s Pamela Thompson signing
off from “The Art of Change” radio show broadcasting live from bbmglobal
network and Tunein radio!
loss; change is the gaining of something new.”
Last night I attended the screening of a documentary film
“Metamorphosis” by Canadian film makers Nova Ami and Velcrow Ripper.
It was an informative, energizing and beautiful experience.
The topic was Climate Change. Many films on this theme are all “gloom and
doom”. In contrast, this film reminded me of the resilience and beauty of
nature and of the importance of slowing down. It gave me hope and inspiration
that we do have a “window of time” to make a real difference in the health of
We had an opportunity to meet and hear briefly from the film
makers about their purpose in making the film before it was shown.
The Documentary: Real
Through the use of dramatic cinematography a number of real
life examples of the impacts of climate change were shared through the eyes of
people who are/were directly affected. This included:
- The drought in Southern California characterized by swaths of cracked and desolate land, which due to the diversion of natural aquifers for the irrigation of large cities such as Los Angeles, has changed green, thriving and water abundant areas, to desert. Data was shared including the fact that a typical lawn in Southern California requires 4 feet of water per year to stay healthy and alive and rainfall typically is 13 inches per year. The rest is made up for by irrigation.
- More frequent and powerful typhoons in the Philippines and Caribbean resulting in loss of life, the high loss of homes (needing to be rebuilt) and the uprooting of ancient trees.
- Higher water levels and more frequent flooding in Venice
- Devastating fires due to draught. The experience of driving through a burning forest to reach loved ones. One family’s experience of losing their home and how their entire town was decimated.
The Documentary: Innovative
A number of innovative solutions were shared that are
currently being implemented in various parts of the world. They included:
- Garden Pools – and the “army” of folks trained to convert drained swimming pools into gardens and ecosystems which are similar to what exists in nature; symbiotic relationships where one organism is dependent on another; e.g. ducks, fish (fertilizer), water from rain and dew, facilitating the growing of a variety of fruits and vegetables.
- Grid “Collective” – installing solar panels on roofs of homes in low income communities and training others to do this
- Sculptured Human Art – facilitating the growth of new coral reefs
- Garbage Art – to increase awareness of how much garbage we create as humans and using it to construct colorful and fun art pieces
- Earthships – using used tires, cans, bottles, solar panels as well as rain water capture to create self-sustaining homes that are “off the grid” 
Who was there and Why was it helpful?
After the screening, the film makers were joined at the
front of the room by an academic, and a local municipal councillor who is
advocating for “green” solutions, as well as a facilitator. The “floor” was
open for us all to share how the film impacted us, to ask questions and share
It was interesting to hear the different perspectives of the
panelists and the audience. A safe environment was created that enabled people
to share what they liked about the film, what they might have liked more of,
and how it impacted them. There was also a discussion of change and loss and
how it is important to grieve the losses associated with climate change, as
well as other environmental and life changes.
As the documentary touched on the importance of us as
members of communities sharing our gifts and talents to create innovative
solutions, a couple of special things happened that surprised me. One woman
asked for permission and sang a beautiful song about Mother Earth. Another
openly shared her painful, yet valuable learning experience of moving through
grief related to what we as humans have done to the planet, and how the
experience affected her mind and body; and the realization that this is part of
the process of change.
Lessons about change
that I took away from the film
- The importance of slowing down and being
grateful for the beautiful world we have.
- Reminded me that many of us are stuck in
“psychic numbness”; on a constant treadmill of making money, so we can pay our
bills, buy bigger and bigger homes and cars and consume more and more “stuff”.
Being on this “hamster wheel” prevents us from reflecting on our beliefs and
behaviors, experiencing and moving through the fear, anxiety and uncertainty of
change, letting go of beliefs and behaviors that are no longer serving us and
moving toward creative solutions.
- The strength and resilience of the monarch
butterfly; how going through different phases from caterpillar, to chrysalis,
to beautiful butterfly and the 3000 or so miles each one flies each year, is
remarkable. The butterfly reminds us that change is normal and can lead to
increased strength, resilience and beauty.
- The human imagination and how creative we can be
to come up with solutions when we put our hearts and minds together toward a
- The importance of acknowledging that we all have
gifts and talents to share; uncovering and sharing those gifts to make a
- The need to forgive ourselves and others for the
harm we have done to our planet.
- The value of holding community conversations
around topics and engaging people from diverse backgrounds, cultures and
experiences to generate innovative solutions to “pressing” challenges.
- The power of the collective and community to support
Reflecting on last night’s experience and what I learned from the documentary, I began thinking about the importance of grieving all changes. I started thinking about how we might integrate video and film effectively into organizational change processes and to support social movements and societal changes we need in order to create a healthier world for us all. What are your thoughts?
I’d love to hear from
you. Have you used film and video to support change processes you’ve been a
part of? If so, where and how and what did you learn? I invite you to share
your comments below.
 View trailer here: https://vimeo.com/248189180
-  Symbiotic relationships are a special type of interaction between species. Sometimes beneficial, sometimes harmful, these relationships are essential to many organisms and ecosystems, and they provide a balance that can only be achieved by working together.” (Source: https://study.com/academy/lesson/symbiotic-relationship-definition-examples-quiz.html)
description: “An Earthship
is a brand of passive solar earth
shelter that is made of both natural and upcycled
materials such as earth-packed tires, pioneered by architect Michael Reynolds.
An Earthship addresses six principles or
- Thermo-solar heating and cooling
- solar and wind electricity
- self-contained sewage treatment
- building with natural and recycled materials
- water harvesting and long term storage
- some internal food production capability.”
As a heart-centered leader and/or changemaker, it is important to support others within your team and/or organization to embrace change. This may be easier said than done. Here are a few “tried and true” strategies.
discuss upcoming changes; (e.g. new leadership, reorganization) and ask
people to share how they are feeling about the changes
- Communicate about the changes and openly discuss how they may impact you and your team
- Ask how
people would like to be supported during the change process. I so relate to
Brene Brown’s work, the examples she shares in “Dare to Lead”, and the
importance of scheduling “rumbling sessions” during times of uncertainty and change.
“These changes are coming hard and fast, and I know there is a lot of anxiety … I want to spend the next forty-five minutes rumbling about how we’re all managing the changes” (p. 35).
those team members who are uncomfortable with change to start slowly and
integrate small changes into their daily routines (e.g. drive to work a
different way, when dressing if they usually put their right leg into their
pants first, start with their left leg, try sleeping on the other side of the
bed … . Change is like a muscle; the more
you welcome change into your life, the easier it becomes. Ariane
de Bonvoisin in “The First 30 Days – Your Guide to Making Any Change Easier”
identifies six “change demons” and their antidotes. The six change demons are:
fear, doubt, blame, guilt, shame and impatience. She explains that the change
demons “help us navigate through change by alerting us if we are off course and
encouraging us to choose a different emotion to help us get where we want to
go.” (To learn more visit: https://pamela-thompson.com/can-reduce-fear-change-power-beliefs/)
- View embracing change as a creative process that opens us up to new possibilities (a foundational belief of my “Art of Change Framework”- https://pamela-thompson.com/2017/10/), and speak with your team about the value of internalizing this belief.
- Use the
change process as an opportunity to be creative and innovative and create
space and opportunities for team members to share innovative ideas. William and
Susan Bridges in their book “Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change”
share some excellent examples of this.
I’d love to hear from you what strategies you’ve found effective to support others in your groups, teams and organizations to embrace change. I welcome your comments and ideas below.
I so relate to this definition from
Ashoka (https://www.ashoka.org/) that “a changemaker is someone who is taking creative action to solve a social
problem.” They go on to say:
changemaker needs to launch their own start-up or be the president of an
organization; changemakers can find opportunities to make a difference in any
number of roles. They may have no ties to an organization; they may take action
as an individual or as part of a group; they may organize as a part of broader
community or they may work within a formal organization. “
Are you a changemaker?
If so, it is critically important that you understand change and how you
respond to it. Here are a couple of questions I encourage you to think about
and write down your responses to:
- When you think about change what words or emotions come up for you?
- Rate yourself on a scale from one to ten related to how you typically respond to change; “one” being “scares me to death” and “ten” being “I thrive on it’.
Many of us who declare ourselves as changemakers, including
those of us who are leaders of teams and organizations, respond to question #1 positively.
For example, when I think of change, words such as: “excitement”, “adventure”,
“opportunity”, “creativity” come up. Based on my experience with other changemakers
and leaders they respond similarly. In terms of question #2 many changemakers
and leaders typically rate themselves as a “nine” or a “ten”. That said, when
they ask the same questions to members of their teams or groups, responses to
question #1 may be “fear”, “uncertainty”, “anger”, “overwhelm”. And for #2 their
responses may be closer to “five” or “six” on the rating scale.
It is important to acknowledge that how you respond to
change when YOU initiate it is quite different than when it is imposed on you. If
change is imposed on you, your reactions and how you rate yourself on the scale
from “one” to “ten” typically change toward the negative.
So how do you as a
changemaker and/or leader, effectively navigate change and support others
around you to embrace, rather than resist change? Learning some facts about
change and openly exploring how you and your team respond to change is a good
Some Facts about Change
- Our bodies are hard-wired to react to change, to protect us and keep us safe
Our amygdala (part of the brain) is constantly scanning our environment for potential threats including things that are different. When it notices something it perceives to be a threat, it sends messages to our bodies that put us into fight, flight or freeze. When we are angry, feel like running away, or our minds freeze, we are NOT in a good position to make any decisions, or to positively influence others.
2. Our past
experiences with change affect how we respond to it. For example, if when
you were a child a relative you were close to died and no one let you see the
person at the wake and didn’t discuss the person’s death with you, as an adult
you may fear death and not feel comfortable speaking about it. Similarly, if
when you were a child and when changes happened, you typically learned to “get
on with things” and to not express your feelings about leaving a particular
school, relationship, home … , then this will likely affect how you respond to
endings as an adult.
3. We store beliefs
and emotions in our bodies. Dr. Bruce Lipton, a stem cell biologist by
training, in his book The Biology of
Belief, documents research conducted by himself and others that all the
cells in our bodies are affected by our thoughts. Dr. Candace Pert, an internationally
renowned researcher and biochemist in her landmark book Molecules of Emotion, shares evidence of the biochemical links
between the mind and body. That being the case, if we have had negative past
experiences with change, that will negatively impact how we respond to change
in our personal and our professional lives moving forward.
4. The good news is that we can change the physiological structure of our brains (create new
neural pathways) with our thoughts. 
The implications of this body of work to us as leaders and changemakers, is
that we can learn, model and teach others how to embrace rather than resist
Why am I so passionate about this?
don’t learn to embrace change we:
- keep repeating the same patterns in our lives and remain unhappy & unfulfilled
- Feel constantly under stress leading to chronic health issues and negative impacts on our relationships & our businesses
- Expend a lot of energy resisting change
bottom line is if we don’t learn to embrace change, over time it negatively
impacts both our personal and our professional lives.
How can we reduce our
fear of change?
- Better understand how and why we
respond to change
- Learn a proven model and tools to
help us reduce resistance, and embrace and successfully navigate any change
more you understand change and the more self-aware you are about how and why
you respond to it, the more easily you can embrace and move through it.
What has been your
experience with change? How have you effectively dealt with change in the past?
I welcome your comments below. Feel free to share this with people who you
think might find it of interest.
 Doidge, Norman, The Brain that Changes Itself. London: Penguin Books, 2007