Build Change Platforms, Not Change Programs

Traditional approaches to change are bureaucratic at their core--and that's why they fail. We need to a new model for organizational change, one that's bottom up & horizontal, embraced, and emergent.

Build Change Platforms, Not Change Programs

Transformational-change initiatives have a dismal track record. In the mid-1990s, Harvard Business School professor John Kotter claimed that nearly 70 percent of large-scale change programs didn’t meet their goals, and virtually every survey since has shown similar results.

In most organizations, change is regarded as an episodic interruption of the status quo, something initiated and managed from the top. The power to initiate strategic change is concentrated there, and every change program must be endorsed, scripted, and piloted before launch. Transformational change, when it does happen, is typically belated and convulsive—and often commences only after a “regime change.”

What’s needed is a real-time, socially constructed approach to change, so that the leader’s job isn’t to design a change program but to build a change platform—one that allows anyone to initiate change, recruit confederates, suggest solutions, and launch experiments.

In this 16-minute presentation, I unpack the concept of a change platform and provide some practical advice on how to create one in your organization.

(From the MIX Mashup event in NYC, back in late 2014).