Is your leadership making change fail?

The need to lead in ambiguity and navigate rapid change is identified as one of the critical leadership capacities that need to be leveraged for the Future of Work in the Price Waterhouse Coopers Annual Global CEO Survey.  As the operating environment becomes more volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous and the pace, scale and complexity of change increases, effective strategic change leadership is going to be business critical.

“Leadership can be the decisive factor between successful and unsuccessful change efforts.”

Professor David Cooperrider, a Distinguished University Professor at the Weatherhead School of Management, Case Western Reserve University suggests that leadership approach to change is fundamentally connected not only to change success but also worker wellbeing.(ref 1)

The challenge is that traditional models and approaches to organisational change give leaders little to work with to meet the demands of the Future of Work.  Popular change frameworks such as Lewin’s 3-Step Change model and Kotter’s 8-Step Change Framework were developed at times of less complexity; they assume stable environments and that change is a linear process.  Rational, goal and plan oriented, these models don’t take account of personal factors that can influence change. They have not been successful.  The field has been criticised for failure rates of 70-80%(ref 2)  and stories of burnout, stress and resistance to change abound, with many pointing to resistance and breakdown as the cause. It is recognised that a more robust, evidence-based approach needs to be taken to inform change practice (ref 3) and that we need to transform change models and approaches to create extraordinary growth in leaders’ capacity to enable, support and deliver successful change.

What could this look like and how can it support your strategic change leadership?

To be effective leading change, leaders need to understand change from a strategic perspective – what are the change levers available and which ones could be most effective to achieve the change outcomes. Unfortunately, traditional organisation change models and frameworks don’t provide leaders much help with this – many of them take an overly simplistic approach and ignore the complexity of the real world by focussing on the stages and process of change.  The Inside Out-Outside in model (Williams, 2016) takes a different perspective.

Old models of change won’t cut it in the new world of work.
What do we need to do differently?

Systems thinking provides the means to understand the complexity that people live and breathe every day, it helps identify pathways and key factors that influence individual and collective engagement with change and results in better-informed, more effective change interventions that consider feedback and unintended consequences. The Inside Out-Outside In (IO-OI) model takes a systems approach to change by acknowledging the influence of inside-out and outside-in factors and the dynamic interplay between the two. Rather than examining the stages and process of change, the IO-OI model focuses on what we need to change to achieve the desired outcomes.

The IO-OI model suggests that change is influenced by individual-level psychological resources such as attitudes and mindsets – Inside-out factors – and organisational-level social resources such as culture, social support and access to skills and knowledge – Outside-in factors. combination of both Inside-out and Outside-in factors provides the most effective change outcomes, and consequently, the model also identifies psychological processes that connect outside-in and inside-out factors and create a synergistic effect between them.

The linking processes identified in the IO-OI model can be intentionally used by leaders to strategically design of change programs to trigger feedback loops that support self-sustaining spirals of positive change at various levels.
The IO-OI model is flexible and scalable so that it can be used to scaffold and implement change with individuals, groups, organizations and communities.

It is generally acknowledged that there are multiple places to intervene in order to create change, each with varying levels of effectiveness. Ironically, the quickest and easiest ways to intervene are often the least effective in achieving change outcomes.  In taking a dynamic, psychological and sociological approach to organisational change, the IO-OI model seeks to access one of the deepest and most effective change levers available – the individual and collective mindset.

Want to know more about how to leverage your strategic change leadership skills and succeed in the Future of Work?

Click here for information on how Paige can help you Design Sustainable Change that Sticks and here for her Mentoring programs.


1. The Change Lab 2019 Workplace Survey

2. Cantore, S.P., (2017). Positive Approaches to Organizational Changein Oades, L. G., Steger, M. F., Fave, A. D., & Passmore, J. The Wiley Blackwell Handbook of the Psychology of Positivity and Strengths‐Based Approaches at Work, 272-291.

3. Barends, E., Janssen, B., ten Have, W., & ten Have, S. (2014). Effects of change interventions: What kind of evidence do we really have?.The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science50(1), 5-27. 

Copyright 2019: Dr Paige Williams

Paige Williams, PhD

Paige Williams, PhD

Speaker, Author, Mentor, Coach

Paige helps leaders leverage their leadership to lead teams that deliver and create culture that feeds high performance.

Leveraging Leadership for positive purposeful impact.