Characteristic #15: Leading Transitions (Part 1)

By | September 30, 2013

[September 30, 2013]  Organizational “transitions” are those events when an organization takes risk to change its processes.  Transitions involve major changes to the organization.

Organizational transitions are either internally or externally driven, require significant resources and planning to surmount, and put the organization at some level of danger of failure.  Some organizations are in a near constant state of transition while others rarely experience it.

Nevertheless, why do organizational transitions occur?

  • Senior leadership change
  • Mission change
  • Relocation, reduction, increase in facilities
  • Merging, downsizing, growth, gaining new partners
  • Major processes or tools realignment (equipment, software, etc)
  • Significant funding changes

The way to ensure a smooth change and reduce the risk involved, is to learn from others’ mistakes.  Those lessons learned are quite informative.  Part 2 of this blog will go into more detail about the lessons learned.

The primary lesson learned from organizations that have undergone a transition, is that while senior executive leaders may be skilled at responding to the structural changes (creating a new vision, strategy, culture, systems), they have not mastered the personnel side of change.

We know that employees and customers will resist the change.

“The ultimate test of leadership is creating positive change.”  – John Maxwell

Why do people resist change?  John Maxwell in his 1998 book1 describes the reasons why people resist change.  There are others who have added to his work.  The following reasons are a few:

  • Not their idea
  • Fear of the unknown
  • Challenges tradition
  • Vision is unclear
  • Payoff doesn’t match the sacrifice
  • Leaders don’t have the people’s trust
  • Lack of passion
  • Misunderstandings
  • Their natural temperament

This is where senior leaders play a key role; leading employees in the right direction, a positive direction.  Without strong, decisive leadership, any important transition will be difficult at best.  Moreover, failure is common.


[1]The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership : Follow Them and People Will Follow You” John C. Maxwell, 1998.



Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

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