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Leading a Big Change? You Need a Compelling Event!

Leading a Big Change? You Need a Compelling Event!

Greek philosopher Heraclitus said: “The only constant in life is change.” For something that happens constantly, believe me when I say that most people in groups have a really hard time dealing with change. By “people in groups” I mean from the smallest social circles to the largest organizations. Changing the behaviour of groups is so difficult that entire disciplines, fields of study and careers exist to develop strategies for attempting just that.

You’ve experienced this challenge firsthand even in your circle of friends, I'm sure. Each of your friends plays a role and you count on each other playing your position when you’re together. What happens when one of you suddenly decides to change it up and act differently? How does the rest of the group react? Do they embrace the change, or do they question or even resist the person for trying to “act brand new” on them :-)? You were all accustomed to operating a certain way, and everything was fine. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it, right?

That is also the mindset of many team members and leaders in organizations who have been doing things a certain way for a long time and who have reasons for wanting to keep them the way they are. As the sponsor of a change – the person who wants to see the change happen – you may have to point people to a compelling event.

A compelling event refers to an inside or outside event that can force change to happen to take advantage of an imminent opportunity or prevent an imminent undesirable consequence. As the change sponsor, you can ask yourself these questions to identify a compelling event:

• Why do these people have to act now?
• What is the deadline for these people to act?
• What are the consequences if they do not act?
• What is the payback if they act by the deadline?
• What will be the measurable impact on these people?

Like it or not, a crisis, or a significant problem that threatens dire consequences, often serves as a potent catalyst for change. As a leader, sometimes your role may be to draw your team’s attention to the crisis their comfort has rendered them too numb to feel.

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