Three Critical Factors in Leading Change

The Situation

You are leading an important change in your organization. You see the opportunities and need for the change. At same time, you have lurking doubts about successful implementation.


Your opportunities or needs may be changes in:

➤      Products or services,

➤      The organization’s structure or roles,

➤      Work processes or different standards, or

➤      Culture: Becoming more collaborative or vibrant 

Doubts or concerns may be:

➤      People not being sufficiently onboard,

➤      Under-estimating extra demand on people,

➤      Working with tight deadlines,

➤      Distractions of competing initiatives and priorities, or

➤      People’s lacking capacity or skills.


The Challenge

In working with organizations, teams and leaders for over 30 years, I have seen repeatedly how success or failure of important changes was tied directly to problems with the relationship of three critical, related factors:

1.    The objective of the change,

2.    The environment, and

3.    The readiness to perform.

For success, the OBJECTIVE of the change must match the ENVIRONMENT in which implementation will occur as well as with people’s READINESS to accomplish the objective

When one of these factors does not adequately match to the other two, success is at serious risk. While a simple principle, this can be difficult to carry out.


The Three Related Factors

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1.    Your Objective - Simply, this is the intention you aim to accomplish. It could be one of the opportunities mentioned above, or something more personal, such as getting a promotion or better role.

2.    Your Environment - This is the world in which you will implement the objective. This includes key people and groups, politics, priorities, work climate, culture, work processes – everything engaged in accomplishing the objective. The environment can range from strongly suitable for your objective to highly unsuitable. 

Too frequently, an inaccurate assessment of the environment has resulted in tremendous waste of time, resources, and morale.

3.    Your Readiness - While your environment may be suitable for implementing your objective,  people involved, including you, must have appropriate skills, capacities, mindset, and attitude to function successfully in implementing the change. This deals with readiness to pursue your objective successfully in your environment. 

A common risk? Over-estimating people’s readiness for implementing changes.


Coming Next

This overview is the first of three articles. The next article focuses on how to manage the three factors for your team and/or organization. In the third article, we focus on how to manage yourself over time during the work of implementing change.



Consider this framework here to gain insight into an important change in your organization:

➊ Objective & indicators: what was/is the objective of the change and the indicators of successfully completing it?

➋ Environment: how well matched was/is the environment to support the change? Consider stakeholders, climate, politics, costs, sponsorship, resistance to change and other forces.

➌ Readiness: how ready to adapt were/are people to actively implement necessary changes?

➍ Conclusion: how matched or mismatched with the three factors?

Matthew Callahan