5 Change Management Secrets you can learn from an Earthquake

In many ways, what I often find when I walk into a business looks very much like a scene from an earthquake.

Leadership in an organization need to engage the internal & external resources that can help it get from its current state, to where it needs to be before it looses any more people, clients & market-share.

In the aftermath of recognizing the need for action, the goal is to create structures that will allow your organization to shift its focus from immediate recovery to longer-term development.

How do you go from “fixing what’s broken” (firefighting) to effective ongoing business practices & a state of continual improvement?


During the first stages of initiating change, leadership must lay out its priorities and make specific demands of key-stakeholders.

One thing is clear, we’re going to need “all-hands on-deck” to make this work! Leadership must unmistakably establish its own agenda (vision) and speak with one voice to make it easier for staff (material experts) to do “their work”.

You should create a single access portal—whether online or pulse check meetings to provide information about programs, projects and initiatives underway, and direct queries to the right people.

Without a comprehensive and transparent communications approach, failure is inevitable.

Decide & communicate (frequently)

Change agents must resolve—immediately—the policy & processes holding back progress. Waste (inefficiency) removal remains a priority and leadership must quickly approve where and when to change, or even demolish unsound structures.

We must identify the client life cycle through our organization and develop a comparative analysis (GAP) between current state & desired future state. We must decide on emergency measures to alleviate immediate pain, whilst rebuilding sound structures that will see us through to a successful end.

Leadership must have a solid balcony perspective (helicopter view) and give its teams clear directions, setting expectations for efforts needed to deal with the problems still ahead. Articulate an overall policy, and whatever the decisions, they must be reached quickly, communicated clearly, and updated consistently.

Attract engagement and secure buy-in

We must transmit our decisions to the people on the ground in order to guarantee their full engagement in our change process, vital in rebuilding a world-class organization. Through open & transparent communication we attract our teams commitment to the rebuilding of our change efforts required to get us back on solid ground.

In a massive rebuilding process, leadership must lead by example, shining the light in the direction it wants people to follow.

Staff up, delegate down

Build capacity quickly, but not everywhere at once. Instead, focus resources in key areas: the 20/80 mix that will secure momentum moving forward. Identify capable staff to execute these priorities, get new staff or re-skill existing staff to enable progressive advancement toward becoming the organization you need to be. Leverage collective networks and be able to ask for help from institutions while retaining sovereignty over the process.

When bureaucratic capacity increases, it will become even more important for top leaders in each area to share information and delegate decision making down to the lowest appropriate level of authority. This will be a particular challenge: forcing decisions up to top leaders is part of the fabric of most cultures. But if a middle layer of leadership, and their teams, can’t take responsibility, top leaders won’t have time to focus on the real priorities.

Establish and empower; share the lessons learned and the business logic behind what’s happened

By applying an educative & consultative approach whilst rebuilding, you will transform learning into behavior. Your teams will gain the needed confidence that will allow you to govern whilst they, as a community, keep the pace of transformation & continual improvement flowing.

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