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[Review] Who Killed Change?


Written by Ken Blanchard of “The One Minute Manager” fame, together with his co-authors John Britt, Pat Zigarmi and Judd Hoekstra, “Who Killed Change?” is a whodunnit with a business twist. The slim volume is easily read in one sitting and imbues one with useful pointers when implementing change management.

The plot goes like this. Somebody in the ACME organisation has killed Change. In this case, Change of course represents Change Management – a very necessary ingredient for enduring organizational effectiveness when things no longer become business as usual.

To investigate the ghastly affair, cigar chomping Agent McNally interviews various key employees in the organization – from nondescript Carolina Culture, lackadaisical Ernest Urgency, uptight Bailey Budget, short-sighted Victoria Vision to ill-disciplined Terry Trainer, amongst others.

Each character in the motley crew of managers represent a particular dimension of an organization, and the way they were described implied that they were often far from what they were supposed to be (e.g. Perry Plan always being late and not on time). Now doesn’t that sound familiar to us working in real organizations?

In total, 13 aspects of the organization were “hauled up” for questioning, namely:

1. Culture – defines the predominant attitudes, beliefs and behavior patterns.

2. Commitment – describes a person’s motivation and confidence to engage in the new behaviors required by Change.

3. Sponsorship – a senior leader with the authority to deploy resources towards the Change.

4. Change Leadership Team – leads the Change into the organization by speaking in one voice and resolving concerns.

5. Communication – creates opportunities for dialogue with change leaders and those affected.

6. Urgency – explains why Change is needed and how quickly people must change the way they work.

7. Vision – paints a clear and compelling picture of the future after Change has been integrated.

8. Plan – clarifies the priorities of Change relative to others and develop detailed and realistic implementation plan plus support infrastructure.

9. Budget – analyses Changes from financial perspective to determine ROI and resource allocation.

10. Trainer – equips staff to change with necessary skills needed to succeed.

11. Incentive – recognizes and rewards people to reinforce desired behaviors for Change.

12. Performance Management – sets goals and expectations, tracks progress, provides feedback and formally documents actual versus projected results.

13. Accountability – follows through with people to ensure behaviors and results are aligned to goals and expectations, with leaders walking the talk.

After the murderer was announced (go read it to find out who!), the last chapter of the book provides useful tips on how to infuse change management into the 13 aspects of an organization. We’re taught that successful change management must be fully embraced by different divisions and functions. The buy-in of all affected staff needs to be sought beyond that of the senior leadership.

Change must also be woven into all the key corporate functions – from strategy and vision setting to budgets, performance management, training and project management. It needs to tackle both the “hard” factors (budget, plans, performance, accountability) and the “soft” factors (culture, training, urgency, and communication).

Overall, I find the book both entertaining and enlightening, serving as a useful reminder of what many of us already know. Change is always a difficult subject in any organization, and using a management fable helps to bring to life some of these important lessons that one must learn. The challenge of course is in the implementation of change, and that probably requires more than what a fictional tale can achieve.