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Yes, You Can Manage Complex Change Effectively

April 2012by Moshe Engelberg, Ph.D.

Most organizations find it hard to manage complex change. This framework, adapted from the fine work of Ambrose, (1987) is a powerful tool for understanding what is needed, what may be missing, and what happens as a result.

There are five essential ingredients in managing complex change: vision, skills, incentives, resources, and an action plan. When any of these ingredients are missing, you get sub-optimal results. Take these three steps to apply this framework to your situation:

  1. Diagnosis: Think about a current situation and ask yourself if you're presenting your team with all the essential ingredients. If you're not sure, look at what is and is not happening. Tune into what people are feeling. Frustration? You're likely not providing the needed resources. Confusion? No guiding vision that tells your people what the future state will look like.
  2. Expectations: Once you've diagnosed the missing ingredient(s), let your people know. Adjust your expectations of the rate of change immediately and explicitly.
  3. Improvement: Determine if and how you can generate and supply what is missing in order to manage complex change effectively.
Be sure to keep your expectations aligned with what you are and are not doing to enable the change you want to happen.

Nothing endures but change.
-Heraclitus, Greek philosopher (around 500 BC)

Moshe Engelberg, Ph.D., M.P.H.
ResearchWorks, Inc.
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Suite 313
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