change management, book, Gregory Shea, Cassie Solomon, Toby Elwin, blog

Recently finished book – Leading Successful Change, 8 Keys to Making Change Work

Leading Successful Change, Gregory Shea, Cassie Solomon, change management, toby elwin, blogPlenty of change pioneers and business guru books litter management book shelves. For successful change management surely all that is necessary is a reread or simple follow-through on proven wisdom or paths traveled.

Seems, however, we are left wanting. So, another change management book with promise to answer needs of those:

  1. Thirsty for some new way to deliver change;
  2. Not quite right about the change process we are told to implement; or
  3. Not listening to the ghosts of change past in their approach to change future

Below is this blog’s review of the book Leading Successful Change, 8 Keys to Making Change Work by Gregory P. Shea, PhD and Cassie A. Solomon.

Change This to Change That

I scan my office and view more than 36 change management books, my subscription stacks to T+D Magazine from ASTD, Talent Management Magazine, Diversity Executive, Chief Learning Officer, CFO magazine. How, in 2013, can a book called “Leading Successful Change” open with “Why do so many attempts at organizational change fall short?”

Well, authors, Gregory P. Shea, PhD and Cassie A. Solomon, can open this way because change management continues to fail at an alarming rate: above 70% of change efforts fail, I estimate a good bit more than 70% fail. The authors contend change efforts fail for 2 reasons:

  1. Leaders present vague change objectives
  2. Leaders underestimate work environment’s power to resist change

Other’s may write, speak, talk, and sell any number of change management solutions and it is not for a lack of commitment that change fails, but without behavior and environment involved, change efforts continue to chart troubled waters.

Successful change efforts require 2 vital elements to meet their objectives:

  1. Change behavior and
  2. Change the work environment to support the new behavior

Leading Successful Change, 8 Keys to Making Change Work – The Book

Professionals who practice or enter into change management are presented a very tight book and busy executives who want answers get their answers within the accumulated 106 pages.

At the outset the authors present the principles foundation for the approach:

  1. Systems thinking
  2. Sociotechnical theory – the intersection of people and technology on productivity and organization
  3. Focus on behaviors you want to see when change is complete

From there out, I believed, I had a strong sense for their approach. As an Appreciative Inquiry organization design practitioner they had my interest at behavior change. A casual observer of this blog or my work knows my approach follows systems, people and technology, and a future-state design of what could be.

The book’s journey follows:

  1. Why Change Initiatives Fail
  2. Focus on Behavior and Change the Work Environment
  3. The 8 Levers for Change: Design the Work Environment
  4. When to Use the Work Systems Model

Business examples are introduced quickly, remember, at a pithy 106 pages, this book does not dawdle.

The heart of the book is their 8 Levers for Change, the crux of the change solution:

  1. Organization,
  2. Workplace design,
  3. Task,
  4. People,
  5. Rewards,
  6. Measurement,
  7. Information distribution,
  8. Decision allocation

Many books attack the rational case for change, but often miss the crucial element to understand change: plans are rational people are emotional. Emotional case trumps rational case. As a practitioner and believer in their approach, I went to further evaluate the leading successful change on reality:

  1. The implementation approach and
  2. The executive sniff-test: would an executive listen without their eyes glazing over with thoughts of too touch-feel-y, too soft, or too much Kumbaya

I found the definitions and supporting examples in practice highly credible and with sufficient depth for context. 8 levers are presented to support behavior and environment change. Their key for your change success: at least 4 are needed for change success.

The implementation approach is logical and sound. You can plan change efforts to account for any or all of the 8. Also, keep in mind for planning a quality change approach needs at least four of those eight.

The executive sniff test is met. Credible examples support the way a change agent would have to present a business case to an executive.

A Strong Recommendation for Change

There are professional libraries full of wise change management books; professional change management speaker circuits; corporate change departments; change consulting service offerings; and entire professional change management service companies, but without behavior and environment conditions addressed, proceed at your own peril.

Change requires doing something different. Doing something different, in practice, is not as simple as a process chart or printed word. My treasure trove of certifications, books, lectures, magazines, and blogs that support my education, training, and profession point out Shea and Solomon are correct.

For anyone working hard for change success you may only need this book.

Please see more or to purchase the book at

Disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This review is my opinion and no compensation was provided.

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Comments 2

    1. Post

      Very good read and cuts right to the chase. As I mentioned above, I read it on Kindle so had no idea how big or long the book was and when I finished I wondered if this was just a promotional copy as it was so short. Not much extra time all around so a book that cuts right into it is welcome and there is plenty to plot and plan for within.

      Hope you enjoy it and do follow up with any thoughts.

      Thank you for posting Cole, I really enjoy your the web tips from your site – very clean design, as well.

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