Building Your Change Strategy: How to Ensure that Your Effort Is on the Right Track

Back to all Free Resources        View PDF Version

Linda Ackerman Anderson
Dean Anderson


No executive in their right mind would compete in the marketplace without a clear business strategy, yet many undergo multimillion dollar change efforts without a clear change strategy. No wonder so many change efforts fail to produce their expected ROI.

While your business strategy determines what in your organization needs to change, your change strategy clarifies how you will make those changes happen.

Building an effective change strategy will accelerate your change and reduce its cost. It will increase your effort’s efficiency, spped up your laaunch, remove unnecessary or redundant activities, and engage your people optimally.

In this article, we will identify the three key aspects of a comprehensive change strategy and the ten core elements you will need to consider in developing your own.

Overview of the Components

Change strategies address three general topics about your change: its content, people, and process. Content refers to what in your organization needs to change—strategy, structure, systems, technology, business processes, products, services, or culture. Content describes the “business solution” being designed and implemented, and typically gets the most leadership attention.

The People component of your change strategy includes people’s emotional reactions to the change, how to address the changes in mindset, behavior, and culture that your future state requires, how to engage your people in design and implementation, and how to ensure commitment and capacity to change.

Your people strategies are as important as the content of your change. Without your people being ready, willing, and able to make the change, your business solutions will never get implemented successfully. Most change efforts fail because of lack of attention or skill applied to the people dynamics.

Often, leaders delegate these issues to the Human Resource department, which deals with them separately from the content changes. This approach does not work! Attending to the people dynamics should be done as an integrated component of the design and implementation of your content.

The Process component of your change strategy sketches out a high-level roadmap to get you from where you are today to where you need to be to achieve results from your change. The process sets your change up for success; moves you through the design of sound solutions, testing, and planning of those solutions; implementation, all the way through to full realization…attending to all of the people and cultural issues along the way. The key to success is consciously designing your change process to handle all the content and people issues together as one effort. Note that this is a high-level plan of milestones, not a tactical project plan. That comes later.

The following graphic shows the three components of change strategy as a three-legged stool. All three components are necessary for your change strategy to stand on its own.

Elements of Change Strategy

There are ten core elements of change strategy. Not every change requires attention to all ten, so tailor them to the type and magnitude of your change effort. As you consider the list, notice that they address content, people, and process.

Values and Guiding Principles

Change is all about taking a good idea or new direction and making it real. All change proceeds from “concept to pragmatics” becoming more and more tangible along the way. Your values and guiding principles drive the design of your new direction and form the conceptual and cultural foundation of the tangible future state you are trying to create.

This element makes values and guiding principles conscious and explicit in how you design and lead your change. Your change process must reflect and embody the values and principles of the future you are creating or people will not believe the change is real. In other words, you must model the future in the way in which you lead and carry out your change effort.

As you move through your change process, you must ensure that your values and principles have tangible influence on your design requirements, the way in which you engage people, how you communicate, how you design implementation, etc. Make them overt in your change strategy, and keep them “visible” throughout your change.

Change Governance

There are four actions to determine how you will govern your change:

  • Identify clear change leadership roles
  • Create a recognizable change governance structure to oversee the effort
  • Clarify how change-related decisions will be made
  • Clarify how the change structure will interface with your ongoing operations

These four actions are key elements of your overall change infrastructure. When communicated, they demonstrate to your organization the importance of the change and that you are leading it with clear roles and authority. As you proceed through your change, add to your change infrastructure as needed. Include any temporary teams, systems, course correction vehicles, or technology you will use to support your initiative.

Identification of Change Initiatives and How They Integrate into One Unified Change

This element translates the scope of your change into actual initiatives that address your organizational and technical changes as well as your required human and cultural changes. Integrate these into one unified “theme” for your overall effort, which will demonstrate to your organization how all initiatives are aligned to deliver the collective results of your change. This element will help simplify the apparent magnitude and complexity of your change, and clarify confusing, competing, or unrelated change work.

Fit and Priority of Your Initiative among All Other Changes Happening in the Organization

Even if your overall change is enterprise-wide, other large changes are likely also occurring in the organization. This element clarifies where your effort fits among all of the other organizational priorities. Ideally, the level of priority given to your effort by your sponsors will match the degree of visibility and resources allocated to it. Your intent with this element is to clarify how your change effort fits within and supports your organization’s business strategy requirements.

Multiple Project Integration Strategy

Where there is obvious interdependence or overlap among any of the sub-initiatives within your overall effort, or interdependence between your effort and others occurring in the organization, you need an integration strategy that can surface, address, and streamline the work across efforts or regions. This element creates a Multiple Project Integration strategy to overtly look for redundancy, competition, or gaps among changes and constructively align them to share resources, reduce costs, increase efficiencies, and accelerate the pace of your changes.

Bold Actions

If your changes are significant or require your currently “successful” organization to alter course, you may need to do something radical to wake people up to the seriousness or magnitude of the new direction. Bold actions are highly visible, “outside the norm” moves that dramatically demonstrate that “things are going to be very different around here.” It is powerful for senior leaders to identify bold actions, and equally important for them to carry them out to have the intended impact. Examples include selling off a business line, removing a whole layer of the organization, or reallocating significant resources. Bold actions should be a calculated part of your change strategy.

Communications and Engagement

Transformational change cannot succeed without significant engagement of stakeholders and frequent, multi-directional communications (up, down, and across the hierarchy).

Stakeholders must be engaged early in understanding the case for change, vision, and direction. They must be part of inputting to the design requirements and actual design of the change, not just brought in downstream during implementation.

Most normal, top-down corporate communication channels are inadequate for complex change. Change communications require interaction, exploration, and a high level of engagement to ensure that the changes and their implications are felt and understood. Your communication plan must take the human dynamics of change into account from the beginning, and at every step of the way.

Because engagement and communications are such central aspects of people dynamics, both must be included in your overall change strategy.

Acceleration Strategies

Everyone wants change to go faster, but change takes the time it takes. And, there are ways to accelerate it. Be cautious here, however; pushing change beyond its pace actually makes it go slower. This is a very common problem in most change efforts.

Examples of effective acceleration strategies include large group engagement meetings to handle visioning, design, or impact analysis; putting special teams together to tackle key issues full time; running key aspects of the change in “parallel;” integrating activities with other change efforts; or, setting up conditions for success at the beginning.

Resources Required

Your change strategy should determine a high-level “guesstimate” of the types and magnitude of the resources you will need to carry it out. Resources may include capital assets, people, expertise, technology, support, and time. Recall that the allocation of major resources can be a bold action as well as a critical message about the importance of the change. Also, identify how you will renegotiate your resource needs when you recognize variations from your original estimates.

Change Process Roadmap with Milestones and General Timeline

Create a macro plan that outlines the phases and milestone events for carrying out your change effort. This is a high-level roadmap, not your detailed implementation plan. As part of your change strategy, it should communicate how you will roll out the change and at what pace. It should include your critical actions, events, announcements, decisions, and benchmarks.


Deciding each of these elements of your change strategy will inevitably trigger critical discussions among your change leaders and executives. These conversations, well facilitated, can produce essential clarity, even if they surface confusions or differences along the way. Clarifying these elements—for your executives and stakeholders in the change—will greatly accelerate your effort and reduce its costs.

When completed, compile these elements into a summary document that can be communicated to your organization. Use it to demonstrate that the leaders of the change have thought through the effort, have a comprehensive strategy, and are committed to its success.

One Comment

  1. Mar 13, 2014
    7:45 am

    Onesmus Mwavita

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts through your contribution to change strategy. I have learned a lot from reading, and shall use it for organizing the change needed in impoverished communities in Kenya.

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *

Share This Page…

Change Leader’s Network News

Get the latest industry research, updates and resources on personal and organizational change sent to your inbox with "Change Leader's Network News." It's free!



With this extensively upgraded second edition, Dean Anderson and Linda Ackerman Anderson solidify their status as the leading authorities on change leadership and organizational transformation. This is without question the most comprehensive approach for leaders who are serious about making change a strategic discipline. Beyond Change Management is an intelligent book by two of the most knowledgeable and accomplished masters of their craft, and it’s one that every conscious change leader should adopt as their guide to creating more meaningful organizations.

Jim Kouzes
Coauthor of the bestselling The Leadership Challenge and The Truth About Leadership

Read this great book by Dean Anderson and Linda Ackerman Anderson and learn how to use their multi-dimensional approach to lead transformation masterfully and consciously!

Marshall Goldsmith
World-renowned executive coach
Author of the New York Times best-sellers, MOJO and What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

An important move toward a more integral business consulting approach, very much recommended for those interested in the topic and ways to actually apply it. 

Ken Wilber
Author, The Integral Vision, A Brief History of Everything, and over a dozen other best-sellers

Dean and Linda are core to the field of conscious change leadership, and continue to stretch and push its boundaries in this rich and deep compendium. This is a must read from two consummate thought leaders who have devoted their careers to developing highly successful change leaders. Read it and immediately improve your change leadership or consulting success.

Bev Kaye
CEO, Career Systems International
Author of Love 'em or Lose 'em: Getting Good People to Stay

This book is about mastery of leading the transformational change process written by masters of the craft.  For corporate leaders and consultants who consider themselves committed students of the process of organizational change.

Daryl Conner
Chairman, Conner Partners
Author of Managing at the Speed of Change and Leading at the Edge of Chaos

Beyond Change Management is a timely how-to guide for leading change in the 21st century. It provides both a conceptual roadmap, and practical tools and techniques for successfully transforming organizations.

Noel Tichy
Professor, University of Michigan
Co-author with Warren Bennis of JUDGMENT: How Winning Leaders Make Great Calls

Once again, Dean and Linda have nailed it! Beyond Change Management is an extraordinary book examining the shifts in change management that have occurred over the years. This book offers real, practical solutions for change practitioners to become extraordinary conscious change leaders.

Darlene Meister
Director, Unified Change Management
United States House of Representatives

Powerful business solutions to the current chaos facing many organizations today. Dean Anderson and Linda Ackerman Anderson get to the heart of change, the human touch, by using timeless techniques and tools.
Ken Blanchard
Co-Author of The One Minute Manager and Leading at a Higher Level

Having applied this methodology for two years to manage change inside Microsoft, it has been instrumental in our ability to land change effectively, engage employees and deliver results quickly. The Change Leader’s Roadmap allows us to lead change with precision and minimal outside consulting, while at the same time growing change leadership capability internally. This is the most complete change methodology we have found anywhere.

Pete Fox
General Manager, Corporate Accounts
Microsoft US

This newest edition of The Change of Leader’s Roadmap is an invaluable, comprehensive and practical guide for envisioning an organization’s desired future, designing the structures and practices necessary to make it happen, and implementing them effectively. The book describes the change process in nine distinct phases and outlines the activities and tasks that need to occur in each phase. It provides change leaders with an essential map for successfully traversing the complex and uncertain terrain of transformational change.   

Thomas G. Cummings
Professor and Chair, Department of Management & Organization
Marshall School of Business
University of Southern California

This is the next best thing to having Dean, Linda and the Being First team riding alongside your complex change initiative. The Change Leader’s Roadmap breeds confidence in senior executive “Champions” to guide not just a successful transformational change, but most importantly, to develop the mission critical organizational CULTURE that will ensure unparalleled return on investment. Nothing I have seen in my 32 years of leading change comes close.

Jeff Mulligan
Former CEO, Common Wealth Credit Union
Mayor, City of Lloydminster

After implementing more than 2000 business strategy and operational excellence initiatives, we set out to find the best change methodology and toolbox in the world. The methodology this book describes is it! Study it thoroughly, because the thinking, process approach and pragmatic tools really work!

Thomas Fischer
Director COO
Valcon Management Consultants A/S

A practical, step-by-step guide for change leaders, managers and consultants. The book provides conceptually grounded, real world, time tested tools and guidance that will prove invaluable to those faced with navigating the challenges of leading organizational change in today's turbulent times.

Robert J. Marshak, Ph.D.
Senior Scholar in Residence
MSOD Program, American University
Organizational Change Consultant