Episode #03

Transformational Change: A New Leadership Paradigm

with Dr. Linda Ackerman Anderson

Are you wondering how best to guide complex change in organizations? Then this episode is for you. I break down two essential models that will give you the foundational understanding to shape a successful strategy for any transformational change effort. This understanding is paradigm shifting.

I’ll walk you through the three critical areas that require your leaders’ attention from the very beginning and explain why understanding the type of change you are leading is crucial to determine your best approach. In change, one size does not fit all!

We’ll also explore the world of transformational change by defining it and explaining why it requires a new type of leadership and strategy. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to up-level your approach for leading change — tune in now!

For episode chapters and audio settings, hover your mouse over the player.

Video of Episode


00:00:05:11 – 00:00:36:12

Welcome to Ask Dr. Change. I’m Dr. Linda Ackerman. Anderson. I’m happy to have you join me today to explore how to seriously up level your leadership and consulting to transformational changes. All through conscious change leadership. This podcast is about succeeding at transformational change through a conscious change leadership lens. I think it’s important to understand what we mean by transformational change.

00:00:36:30 – 00:01:03:17

So today I’d like to share two foundational models with you. One of which is defining transformational change. The other is a background model that helps to understand the unique features of different types of change. Now, why do we focus on types of change? Because every different type of change requires a different approach, different leadership, and different consulting strategies.

00:01:03:37 – 00:01:40:04

So where most change models don’t differentiate type of change, it’s one size fits all. That’s not so for us. Transformational change truly requires some unique approaches and differences in how we lead. So the first foundational model I’d like to share with you today, we call it critical focus areas of leading change. We use the graphic of a three legged stool, which demonstrates that all three legs are needed for you to have a successful stool standing and a successful change effort.

00:01:40:20 – 00:02:12:37

All three legs need largely equal attention. So the first leg of the stool is called content. This is about the solution that your leaders are hungrily after. It’s the what you are changing. It may be the organizational focus, the systems, structure, strategy, business process, technology, product service. It may include culture or skills. It’s what you’re actually attempting to alter.

00:02:12:37 – 00:02:39:37

It’s your scope inside of the change that you are making. Most leaders are most comfortable with the content leg of the stool. They want the right answer. They want the right solution. Now, that’s logical and it makes complete sense. However, the team and us as leaders and consultant also need to attend to the other two legs. The second leg of the stool is the people leg of the stool.

00:02:39:53 – 00:03:04:49

This is where change management comes in. This is who is changing and what they’re going through. The people leg of the stool is about handling the human dynamics of people. It’s their mindsets. Are they aligned? Are they willing? Do they think this is necessary? It’s their level of motivation and how we increase it. It’s their degree of commitment.

00:03:05:00 – 00:03:42:19

How we increase that it’s handling their emotional reactions, of which we get a lot of the whole resistance piece is inside the people leg of the stool. When we need new behavior, it’s how we go about altering that and training for that. It’s how we engage our stakeholders and how often we engage them and in what ways. It’s about relationships, which are critical factors when people are undergoing change and as well as the politics, how do we deal with the political dynamics that are occurring during change?

00:03:42:47 – 00:04:16:48

It’s very much the cultural dynamics. What’s working for us, what’s working against us in the invisible world of the culture of the organization. And it’s all about the need to develop leaders so that they can be successful at change. All of that is the people leg of the stool. Now the third leg is the process leg. This is how how are we actually going to go from where we are today to where we need to be to be successful in our change effort?

00:04:17:10 – 00:04:48:18

It’s your roadmap. It’s your plan. It’s the way in which we organize, design and implement. It’s from A to Z From the very beginning. The first insight of change all the way through sustained business benefits. How do we map out all of that work? That’s the process. It also includes how we govern who is in charge. How do we organize people so that they can make decisions to further the change along?

00:04:48:49 – 00:05:15:53

It’s our integration strategies, since so many large scale changes have many pieces. How do we integrate across those pieces to ensure we’re making the best use of resources and time? It’s also engagement and communications. How we are interacting with people as we go through the process, and most importantly, how we course correct. Because our plan is never perfect.

00:05:15:53 – 00:05:48:45

It never goes the way we intended. So how do we legitimize a course correction, which is particularly important in transformational change, as you will see? So the three legged stool, content people and process. All three legs are essential conversations, essential focus areas to have a thorough change strategy from which to lead the changes that you are seeing. Now it’s important to understand where you spend your time.

00:05:49:01 – 00:06:33:48

Most leaders will say content. You know, 70, 80% of their attention is on content. Well, with that much attention on just the content, the stool will not stand. And so how do you incorporate people and process requirements and capabilities so that you have a three legged stool that actually stands? So a little exercise might be going to your project team or your sponsors and leaders and asking them what percentage of their time that they spend focusing on change that they spend on each leg to see whether or not it doesn’t have to be three and a third percent across all three legs because it’s adjustable.

00:06:34:06 – 00:07:01:53

But are you actually capably attending to the three critical focus areas? Now, I share this with you because it has direct implications on understanding how to lead the different types of change, which is the next foundational model that I want to share with you. There are three prevalent types of change in organizations developmental change, transitional change, and transformational change.

00:07:02:20 – 00:07:32:22

So I want to describe each one and how content people and process piece show up for each one. Now, again, I want to describe to you the importance of knowing the type of change each type requires different approaches, different strategies, and different leadership. So consider which types of change you have going on in your organization. As I describe each one, the first is developmental change.

00:07:32:34 – 00:08:00:28

This is the simplest. It still requires oversight and process. Developmental change is about improving the existing way of operating. We live in this box. We’re going to keep doing these things. We’re going to keep things the way they are, except we want to improve. It may mean sell more. It may mean reduce issues and problems and mistakes. It may mean increasing skills.

00:08:00:46 – 00:08:30:37

All of these are developmental changes. The content is an improvement, but it’s still the content, the people issues they need to get developed and trained. So that’s doable and fairly simple and the process is strengthening the organization and overseeing its ability to improve the way you intend. So all three are at play, but this is the simplest form of change that we have.

00:08:30:55 – 00:09:04:13

Then transitional Change was originally named by Rueben Harris and Richard Beck hard in the seventies. And so here in transitional change, we have an old way of operating and we discover that there are issues and problems that we cannot solve by continuing to operate in the old way. They’re bigger, they’re more challenging. They really require something new. And so what we go through is a transition state and we determine a new state design.

00:09:04:40 – 00:09:30:05

Now, this is figuring out where we are going in the change. The new state is a resolution to the issues and challenges we find in the old state. So we have a fairly clear idea of our future state, of the new state we’re heading towards in ways that solve the challenges we have had in the old way. And the organization goes through a transition state.

00:09:31:15 – 00:10:03:23

So what that entails is dismantling the old way of operating and putting in place the new way of operating fairly simultaneously. So it’s important that people let go of what they’re accustomed to in the old state and learn how to succeed in the new state. All of that is organized during the transition. Project management is a great use of its own model for handling and orchestrating the transitional state.

00:10:03:53 – 00:10:33:17

What we’ve also learned from Rubin Harris and Richard Bakaj, they introduced a principle called Parallel structures. So in the transition state, we create a chain structure that helps orchestrate all of those shifts from old state to new state for your various stakeholder groups. At the same time, we’re continuing to operate the organization. It continues to need to the ship has to stay afloat.

00:10:33:37 – 00:11:09:31

And so we work in parallel normal operations, working in parallel with change structure. And so that occurs and helps us neatly orchestrate the transition state. Now, when we’re going through a restructuring or replacing a technology or a new business process, most of these that so the content is quite different because we’re implementing something new. The people issues are more significant and because we have to support people to let go of what they’re accustomed to.

00:11:09:48 – 00:11:38:50

That’s for some exciting and for others threatening. And so the people dynamics are more significant during transitional change. The process is more controllable. We can actually set out timetables that we assume we can accomplish the work within. So again, project management is useful here. So the process is more controllable, more complex than developmental change, but it’s definitely more manageable.

00:11:39:55 – 00:12:05:52

Now that brings us to the unique features of transformational change. So this is important because this is our focus, given how unique the dynamics are of transformational change. So let’s say your organization was born of a good idea, a service to provide to its marketplace. It grows and it becomes successful by delivering on that service or those products.

00:12:06:21 – 00:12:36:55

So for most organizations, they like the success they’ve achieved and they enter what we call a success plateau. They want to keep being successful in that way. However, the world changes around us as we’ve seen in the last several years. We enter a chaos phase, typically spurred on by changes happening in our environment in the world. On the global level, in politics and technology and finance.

00:12:37:09 – 00:13:06:39

Things change radically around us, and so that chaos disrupts our success plateau and causes us to question Can we survive? Can we keep going? What do we need to do differently in order to recreate a degree of success? What occurs is actually the realization that we need to change radically. So there is a death. We call it the mindset shifting.

00:13:07:36 – 00:13:36:01

I like to say, Toto, we are not in Kansas anymore. Our reality is very different. And so it’s not the death of the organization unless it refuses to transform. But mindset has to shift for us to be able to figure out what does our future require of us. So we enter a reemergence phase where there are plenty of wakeup calls telling us we need to do something different.

00:13:36:21 – 00:14:12:58

It may mean a new structure, a new way of interfacing with our customers, new products, new services, new technology, radically different ways of operating, everyone going online for online business now, huge transformation. Education is transforming. Technology is transforming. Politics is transforming. So many areas are sending us wake up calls for the need to be different. So in your organizational context or community context, what does that future state need to look like?

00:14:13:43 – 00:14:44:12

There needs to be what we call a reemergence. Figure it out as you go. Transformational change is emergent. And so in that way, the people dynamics are rather significant. People don’t like to be in the unknown. They’re not comfortable, especially when they’ve been successful in their history. And so the people dynamics are figuring out as we go. Our hugely increased bring transformational change.

00:14:44:32 – 00:15:08:39

The content obviously is radically different because we’re figuring out a whole new reality for us to create and be able to sustain our existence in the future. Now the process is very different because it’s not on the set timetable. It’s not do this action and you’ll be successful. We have to figure out the process also as we go.

00:15:08:54 – 00:15:43:59

So think emergence. Think how different leadership needs to be to support the organization to deal with. It’s unknown to figure out the new solution, to figure out the best process and the best way of engaging and developing all of your stakeholders so that collectively the organization can create a new reality, a transformed reality for its future. Let me describe the transformational journey and help explain why it’s so different from standard project management.

00:15:44:10 – 00:16:09:01

So let’s say we have a current reality and we have a vision of what we’d like to achieve or accomplish. Then in the standard approach, we would create a transition plan, a straight line to get us from current reality to the vision. However, as I’ve already said, transformational change has nothing straight about it. It’s very messy, it’s very emergent.

00:16:09:01 – 00:16:35:38

It’s very dynamic. And so what we do is do our very best thinking for a transformational process, and then we’re constantly setting up the conditions for us to hear wake up calls here, gather feedback from anywhere in the organization telling us that we need to do something different. We need to learn from what’s going on. We thought we knew, but obviously we’re not.

00:16:35:56 – 00:17:07:13

We don’t. And so we need to course correct. So there’s a very significant zig zag process, almost like sailing into the wind where we need to learn. We need to course correct when we set up the conditions for learning and course correction to achieve a transformational change and we acknowledge the need for a course correction, we can then wrap Edley course correct rather than worry about, Oh, it wasn’t that way or we made a mistake, or why did we do it that way?

00:17:07:25 – 00:17:35:25

It’s all about, okay, what do we get from this and how quickly can we get back on track? This is a very significant shift for leaders who are not accustomed to not knowing, to not having the answer. And so, again, it’s about leading with conditions that allow the organization to figure its future out collectively from all the information might come from any level of the organization.

00:17:35:38 – 00:18:08:21

And so how do we open up the possibility for people to be seeing and thinking and feeling and intuiting possible new realities and inputting it to a change structure that allows that information to be carefully considered and inform a potential future state? So you can see transformational change is very different, very different from a content standpoint. A people standpoint is including leadership and a process standpoint.

00:18:08:34 – 00:18:46:52

Also emphasizing a new way of leading. And so it really prompts a transformation of how we lead projects, because transformation requires these different approaches. Now, I promised you in each of our episodes to offer you a Pro-tip and a personal reflection. My Pro-tip for you today is to engage in an assessment and identify location of how the organization that you serve or you’re a part of has typically undergone change.

00:18:47:21 – 00:19:15:48

What’s this past history? What are its conditioned patterns? What’s its habitual way of leading change? And what kinds of issues continue to show up and repeat themselves, even as the organization has continued to habitually run the changes that way? When you assess and can identify, get objective perspective on conditioned patterns, you can then look at how do we not do it that way again?

00:19:15:49 – 00:19:52:37

How do we up level our approach? How do we mitigate these issues in advance, proactively so we don’t have to fall into the same mistakes over and over again? So an objective assessment. No blame, no shame. An opportunity to look at conditioned patterns, to identify, work with leaders, to identify what these patterns are, and especially what the underlying dynamics are that have enabled these patterns, because leaders actually are enabling those conditioned patterns themselves.

00:19:52:55 – 00:20:19:19

And so how to undo that thinking, undo the habitual reactions and learn how to do things a little differently. A lot of what this podcast is about will give you new opportunities to see transformational change differently, to be able to lead it in different ways. But having objective data about what your organization has been currently doing is absolutely essential.

00:20:21:00 – 00:20:50:49

Now, my personal reflection for you today is a really about your relationship with doing change work. So why have you chosen this path? I ask you to think about these questions. Why is this meaningful to you? To help organizations to achieve a different reality? A lot of people like to have a concrete result of their efforts. Leading transformational change is not concrete.

00:20:50:49 – 00:21:23:26

There’s nothing concrete about it. And so choosing the path of leading transformational change has a lot of self-reflection in it. How are you showing up in this work? How are you dealing with chaos and uncertainty? Is this a job for you or is it a life path? Is it satisfying to you? Is it fulfilling to you? These are important questions to spend a few minutes pondering or longer as you continue to learn to succeed in this direction.

00:21:23:45 – 00:21:48:00

I hope you’ll take a few moments by yourself for yourself to be able to think through these issues and commit or recommit to this work. The world definitely needs us now more than ever, and I’m happy to have you participate. Today’s subject is one of the key topics that we feature in our leading transformational change online and program.

00:21:48:15 – 00:21:56:56

If you’d like to learn more about leading transformational change, go to being first dot com forward slash LTC.

00:21:59:36 – 00:22:11:16

Thanks for spending some time with me today. I hope you gain some valuable insights for your work. Please send me your questions and challenges by going to ask Dr. James Scott.


Click below to subscribe to our newsletter and get the latest episodes and tips from Linda.

Listen & Follow

Featured Resource

New call-to-action

Related Program

Guarantee your success as a confident transformational change leader
Scroll to Top
Scroll to Top