• Jeff Doolittle

Making Change Work: A Strengths-Based Approach


More than a few things have recently changed, and one thing that experts can agree on is that the world and workplace will remain turbulent in the future. We all will likely need to make some changes soon. Making change work is one of those life skills that are more important now than ever. This article introduces a positive, strength-based approach to change management (Appreciative Inquiry) that can bring new life to change initiatives.


"When you are through changing, you are through" Bruce Barton

The Change Management Reality


Many people share a paradigm that most changes in the workplace fail. Although there have been quotes and percentages used in support of this perception there is currently no supporting empirical evidence for this point of view. Mark Hughes of the University of Brighton published his research in The Journal of Change Management: Do 70 percent of all organizational change initiatives really fail? and found no supporting evidence. In 2009 McKinsey surveyed over 1,500 executives on their perceptions of change and concluded that most changes fail because only a third of the executives in the study indicated that changes were completely/mostly successful. Using a sports analogy, thinking that most changes fail because they are not a complete success would be similar to thinking that not scoring every chance you get in a game is a failure.


Change is like a marathon race. When I ran my first marathon, I started planning in January for the race that was nine months later. I read books about marathons, talked with people who ran marathons, followed a comprehensive training plan, and ran with a veteran marathon runner on the day of the race. While not easy, successful change is possible.


The Change Management Process


Too often, change processes begin with what is wrong. While it is imperative to fix problems, if we never spend time talking with others about what is possible, we miss the opportunity to engage in work that is inspiring and realize our dreams. A constant focus on what is wrong not only diverts attention from what can be but is draining. Consider a scenario where one person is always asking about what needs to be fixed. Another is asking about the best of what is possible. Both conversations can lead to improvements but always focusing on what is wrong leaves us short of achieving the full potential of what is possible.


What if we begin change initiatives reframing problems such as employee turnover and customer complaints with possibilities such as retaining talent and creating exceptional customer service?


Appreciative Inquiry