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Change Management, Leadership

The Vicious and Virtuous Circles of Change – #ChangeManagement

vicious-and-virtuousOrganisational Change Management is a complex, interconnected set of events where people’s actions have a major impact upon success or failure. Common Change approaches like John Kotter’s Leading Change, Prosci’s® ADKAR® model and LaMarsh Global’s Managed Change all emphasise the need for strong leadership to achieve successful change.

In order to try and understand some of these interactions the following diagrams examine the relationships between the key actions with a particular focus on the effects of Change Leadership.

Vicious circle of change

So what happens when we have a lack of Change Leadership? Firstly, we commonly see unclear messages being delivered to the staff, so the reason for the change and the vision for the future will often be unclear or inconsistent. The lack of leadership also leads to less drive to change, and the combination of these two things leads to uncertainty and fear, apathy and lack of momentum.

The end result, resistance and reduced results. When the senior leaders see the limited results, they tend to back further away from the initiative and provide even less Change Leadership.

This vicious circle of change becomes self-reinforcing, creates a downward spiral, and ultimately leads to the failure of the initiative.

Vicious Circle of Change

Virtuous circle of change

When we have strong Change Leadership, with clear communication that generates a real sense of urgency, then we have an engaged workforce that have clarity over the vision. People then embrace the change and start to run with it.

When the leadership empowers the employees they start to initiate more change towards the vision which leads to improved results.

When the senior leaders see change that is building momentum they will support and push for the change. Their increased focus provides greater impetus and leadership. This then becomes a virtuous, self-reinforcing circle that generates more change.

Virtuous Circle of Change

These diagrams highlight the importance of Change Leadership and how the impact ripples through the organisation. Obviously there are many factors involved in a successful change and this is just one of them. The links below provide additional reading on related subjects.


Related articles:

Change Management (Part 1) – Cracking the Code of Change
Change Management (Part 2) – Step Models of Change
Change Management (Part 3a) – Change Capability
Change Management (Part 3b) – Success with IT Change
Change Management – What’s in a Name?
Why are IT projects Change Management time bombs?
The Importance of Change Leadership – Beyond “Step Models of Change”
Beer & Nohria – “Cracking the Code of Change
Lewin’s (1951) original 3-step model of “Unfreeze-Move-Refreeze”
John Kotter – “Leading Change”
Martin Webster’s blog
Change Management Blog
The five motivators of successful change by Barbara Kivowitz


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