How to Increase Employee Commitment to Change

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By Dean Anderson
Linda Ackerman Anderson

We believe that employees are more likely to commit to change when they have the full story about what is causing it, and, they tend to resist change when they don’t see the rationale for it. This article uses Being First’s Drivers of Change Model to create a logical story line that demonstrates to employees the purpose and value of your change efforts, leading them to commit to supporting the changes.

We introduced the Drivers of Change Model in our book, Beyond Change Management, (pages 31 to 50). In our own consulting, we use the model with our clients in many ways:

  • Educating executives about the causes of change
  • Creating a framework for their business case for change
  • Accurately identifying the scope of their change
  • Integrating all of their major change efforts into a unified story
  • Identifying the relationships and interdependencies between their change efforts
  • Linking all of their change efforts to their business strategy and marketplace requirements for success

We’ll begin by describing the model, and then apply it to a fictitious company to demonstrate how to use it to increase employee commitment to change.

There are seven components in the Drivers of Change Model:

Here’s the story the model tells: Changes in the environment create new requirements for success in the marketplace as customers demand new services or products. Meeting these new marketplace and customer requirements demands the formation of new business strategies, which in turn require certain changes in the organization’s structure, systems, processes, or technology in order to be implemented successfully. In transformational change, the scope of these organizational changes are often so significant that they also require the culture to change for the new organizational design to operate smoothly and produce its outcomes. Culture change demands change in leader and employee behavior, which further requires leaders and employees to shift their mindsets, often about meeting customer needs, their business model, how work gets done, or even how they work with each other.

If you look at these components as critical factors in successful change, then you see that the reverse sequence depicts the enablers of change: if mindset doesn’t change, behavior can’t change. If behavior doesn’t change, culture won’t, and therefore, major changes in the organization won’t succeed, and the business strategy will fail. Ultimately, all of the components must change to produce the results required to meet the new marketplace requirements.

That’s the concept; here’s an example of the Drivers of Change Model in action.

Let’s assume ABC Company is the largest printing company in the world. They have 25,000 employees in thirteen countries, and have been in business for sixty-five years. Let’s assume that the current changes in their environment include:

  1. A significant evolution in printing technology, which makes a number of their largest plants outdated and requires massive capital expenditures to upgrade equipment.
  2. The merger of their two main competitors, which enables this new merged organization to offer a more seamless one-stop solution to their largest and most profitable customers.
    The industry move away from paper products to digital renditions of books, journals, annual reports, etc.
  3. These environmental changes are creating very different marketplace requirements for success, which in their current state, ABC cannot readily meet. A new business strategy is in order.

They decide to:

  1. Acquire boutique printers to service niche markets and build capability to provide a wider bandwidth of printing solutions.
  2. Consolidate their numerous sales forces to provide a more integrated package of “solutions selling” to large customers (so they are no longer called on by three or four sales people selling different ABC Company services), and to create customized web-based services that includes digital services, not just traditional print solutions.

Sound good? This new business strategy requires dramatic change to the organization:

  1. Restructuring away from their traditional focus on product lines to now organizing around customer needs.
  2. Initializing a very large worldwide CRM implementation.
  3. Establishing online solutions.
  4. Re-engineering their supply chain.
  5. Redeploying and retraining their sales force.
  6. Integrating their acquired companies (people, product, technologies, and culture.)
  7. Revamping their compensation systems.

To get results from these organizational changes, ABC must transform its culture. They must overcome the entitlement mentality their old paternalistic culture has promoted and the risk aversion their command and control style has supported, since these will limit employees’ good use of the customer data their new CRM system will make available. They must be able to cross old rigid boundaries to provide seamless solutions to customers.

This cultural transformation demands massive behavior change, including the following: Leaders must loosen the reins, offer more information instead of withholding it, and focus on the long-term investment, not only on short-term numbers. They must learn to cooperate with their colleagues and overcome viewing them as threats or competitors. The sales force must learn about all of the products of the business and begin selling them in creative, integrated ways. Employees in the print shops must learn new technologies, new standards, and about new customer requirements for online products.

And of course, all that behavior change simply will not occur unless both leaders and employees embrace the mindset that ABC Company has the best chance for long-term success if they become an integrated solution provider, offering a common technology platform across products, in both paper and digital mediums.

There is logic in the story, isn’t there? The change initiatives fit together, with one driving the next. Each has its place, and it is the cumulative impact of all of them together that will enable ABC to meet its new marketplace requirements.

Imagine if ABC didn’t integrate its sales forces—then it wouldn’t be able to offer an integrated solutions package to customers and their newly merged competitor would steal business away.

Imagine if they didn’t upgrade to a common IT platform and implement CRM—then they couldn’t integrate customer information across product lines.

Imagine if they didn’t transform their cultural top-down, risk averse leadership style—then employees would be less willing to step out of the box to provide the unique solutions customers are now demanding.

And imagine if they refused to deal with their leadership mindset, and only mandated new technology to solve the integrated solution challenge—then employees would likely not take the personal risks associated with using the new customer information (this is a common reason CRM implementations fail, by the way.) Imagine! Imagine! Imagine!

Each of the change initiatives—structure, technology, culture, skills, business processes—is a part of what is required for the entire organization to succeed. Seeing how all of the initiatives fit together removes the confusion about why any individual change is needed. However, without this integrated story, and without a clear understanding of the business drivers for them all, any one initiative can look unwarranted and burdensome.

The employees of ABC Company will respond with greater faith and willingness when they get this big picture view about what is required to succeed in the future. How about the employees in your organization, or the organizations in which you consult? Will understanding what is truly driving their organization’s changes increase their commitment? We think so.


Use the Drivers of Change Model as a template to create a clear and compelling case for change for your organization’s initiatives. Use it to demonstrate how each and every change initiative in the organization is required by changes in the environment and your new marketplace requirements for success.

And remember, without understanding the drivers, employees tend to think that the massive changes coming at them are the product of executive whim. Employees want what is best for their organization, and when they resist, it is usually because the changes seem more burdensome than they do beneficial. Telling the story of the organization’s changes using the Drivers of Change Model can clarify the business case for change and link all of the initiatives required in a way employees can understand and appreciate. Good luck!


  1. Mar 23, 2016
    3:08 pm

    Mary Lippitt

    Dean and Linda,
    Thanks for a context based for communicating change. I like the focus on outcomes rather than charisma and inspiring tag lines. The concept of leader and employee mindsets also encourages a broader understanding of what it takes to gain commitment.

  2. Sep 9, 2016
    8:08 am


    You could certainly see your enthusiasm within the article you write.

    The world hopes for even more passionate writers such as you
    who aren’t afraid to mention how they believe.
    Always go after your heart.

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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.
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