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Who killed Change? - Book Review

1 October 2015

Dr. Moria Levy

"Who Killed Change" marks a noteworthy addition to Ken Blanchard's accessible managerial book series. Co-authored in 2008 by John Britt, Pat Zigarmi, and Judd Hoekstra, the book delves into the alarming statistic that around 70% of organizational changes ultimately fail, with most faltering within one to two months.

The book unfolds as a suspenseful plot, where a detective sets out to uncover the mystery behind the sabotage of change within the organization. During his investigation, he interviews all the key players in change management, including those responsible for driving change and the employees affected by it. Significantly, as the story progresses, it becomes evident that negligence is prevalent among all parties, leading to the demise of the change initiative—a metaphorical poisoning due to neglect. Throughout the narrative, the book presents numerous ideas and recommendations that encompass well-established principles of effective change management, all presented in a reader-friendly manner.

The book covers various topics, including root factors, culture, commitment, responsibility, and motivation. It further explores the roles of key stakeholders, such as sponsors, the Change Management Team, and employees. The processes involved in change, from envisioning to planning, channeling, guiding, and measuring, are also thoroughly examined. Additionally, the book emphasizes the importance of urgency and budget as conditions for successful change initiatives.

In summary, "Who Killed Change" is a valuable addition to the library for anyone interested in accessible management literature. It distills essential insights and practices for effective change management without sacrificing readability. The book's content is paramount for those seeking to navigate the challenges of implementing change within organizations.

Root Factors - Culture

Within the realm of change, culture plays a pivotal role in shaping an organization's perceptions, beliefs, and behavior patterns. It is a powerful lever for facilitating change, emphasizing the relevant values that align with the desired transformation. Simultaneously, it involves adapting the existing culture to suit the requirements of the new situation. However, several challenges are associated with this:

  1. The culture may become detached from the operational realities of the organization.

  2. Values may exist merely as declarations adorning the walls, needing more practical implementation.

  3. Hypocrisy can prevail, with demands for change voiced while exerting pressure to maintain the status quo.

To effectively address these challenges and harness culture for change, the following recommendations are crucial:

  1. Conduct a comprehensive analysis of the existing culture, gaining a deep understanding of its strengths and weaknesses and identifying areas where change is most needed.

  2. Utilize the existing culture as a foundation to support, enable, and sustain the desired changes.

  3. Seek active assistance from sponsors, emphasizing their role in driving change, and promote responsibility and motivation as key tools for realizing the recommended actions.


In the context of change, commitment is pivotal in nurturing employee motivation and confidence, enabling them to embrace the new behaviors and expectations that change demands. It is instrumental in creating a collective buy-in for change. However, there are challenges to be mindful that commitment may need to be more superficial, with employees expressing support in words but demonstrating reluctance to take meaningful action.

To effectively address these challenges and cultivate genuine commitment during times of change, the following recommendations are essential:

  1. Integrate employees into the change process by actively involving them and listening to their concerns and feedback.

  2. Foster increased dialogue between the change management team, managers, and employees who may still be undecided about the change. Effective communication can bridge gaps in understanding and build commitment.

  3. Strive for all stakeholders' commitment, ensuring that partners at all levels are engaged and aligned with the change objectives.


In the context of change, accountability plays a pivotal role in ensuring that the behaviors executed and the outcomes achieved align with the predefined goals and expectations. However, its effectiveness can be hindered by several challenges:

  1. Excessive delegation of responsibility.

  2. There needs to be more follow-up on progress.

  3. Focusing solely on addressing tangential issues that delay change.

To bolster accountability and ensure the successful implementation of change, the following recommendations are crucial:

  1. Define clear and specific success metrics, adhering to the SMART criteria (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound) to provide a focused and measurable framework for assessing progress.

  2. Establish periodic meetings to review progress and plan activities, ensuring that change is advancing as intended.

  3. Hold all partners accountable for driving and sustaining the desired change.

Motivation (Incentive)

In the context of change, motivation is pivotal in inspiring individuals to embrace behaviors that drive change. Various incentives, including recognition, rewards, and appreciation, often fuel this motivation. However, there are several challenges associated with motivation:

  1. The tendency to focus solely on announcing change rather than actively motivating individuals to desire and engage.

  2. The temptation to offer monetary rewards directly tied to the profits generated from the change can be shortsighted from a long-term perspective.

To effectively harness motivation and incentives for change, consider the following recommendations:

  1. Integrate motivational efforts with the organizational culture, incorporating robust measurement mechanisms to gauge their impact.

  2. Analyze and develop motivational strategies tailored to suit different target audiences and individuals, recognizing that a one-size-fits-all approach may not be practical.

  3. Strike a balance between motivation initiatives and the organization's routine operations. While motivation is vital for change, it should not overshadow the everyday functioning of the organization, as there are other essential aspects to consider beyond change.

Partners: Sponsor

In the context of change, a Sponsor assumes the role of a senior leader who holds formal authority to allocate resources for initiating, implementing, and maintaining change initiatives. They are responsible for overseeing the change management team's functioning and ensuring the change process's overall success. However, several challenges can impede their effectiveness in this role:

  1. Expectation of sponsors to merely lend their status for task execution without active involvement in sponsorship.

  2. Failure to lead by example and act with integrity can lead to a lack of trust among stakeholders.

  3. Difficulty in prioritizing, as it is only feasible to support some good ideas simultaneously.

  4. Unpreparedness to make the necessary financial investments for change.

  5. Relying solely on top-down management approaches.

To enhance the effectiveness of sponsors in facilitating change, consider the following recommendations:

  1. Form a change management team that is optimal for the specific context, even if it may be a challenging team to assemble.

  2. Provide active and ongoing support for change activities, emphasizing sustained commitment rather than sporadic involvement in a few meetings.

  3. Establish a preliminary infrastructure that enables and supports the change process.

  4. Engage employees in the change process, securing their commitment to its success.

  5. Set a personal example as a sponsor and take ownership of achieving the desired change outcomes.

Change Management Team

In the context of change, the Change Management Team assumes the role of a cohesive group responsible for leading change initiatives within the organization. They serve as a unified voice, addressing and resolving the concerns of those seeking change. Individuals are selected for this team based on their organizational influence. However, several challenges may arise in the execution of their role:

  1. There is a need for more staffing, whether in terms of qualifications or the time available to devote to their responsibilities.

  2. A tendency to sporadically mention the journey for change instead of maintaining a consistent and organized approach.

  3. Overemphasis on the team rather than the substantive work associated with the change initiative.

To enhance the effectiveness of the Change Management Team in guiding change, consider the following recommendations:

  1. Build an optimal team with the right skills and qualifications.

  2. Ensure consistent communication of change initiatives with a unified voice, avoiding inconsistencies.

  3. Ensure that the team's impact extends across the organization, involving and influencing all relevant employees in the change process.


In the context of change, employees play a crucial role in effecting the transformation by altering their current organizational and personal behaviors to align with the change initiative. However, several challenges may arise in engaging employees effectively:

  1. Employees often need help with the change, from unfamiliarity with the new processes and potential related losses.

  2. There may be a temptation to expedite decisions without involving employees or with minimal participation from them.

  3. Some individuals may be expected to add new tasks or activities as part of the change without being offered the opportunity to relinquish other responsibilities.

To maximize the contribution of employees to the change process, consider the following recommendations:

  1. Integrate employees into the planning phase of the change, ensuring their input and involvement from the outset, not just during the implementation phase.

  2. Dedicate time and resources to support employees experiencing discomfort or resistance to changing the status quo, address their concerns, and ease their transition into the new paradigm.

Processes: Vision

In the context of change, the vision process aims to craft a clear and compelling image of the future state that will emerge once the change has been successfully implemented. Nevertheless, several challenges are associated with this process:

  1. A genuine understanding of the organization is foundational for creating a meaningful vision.

  2. Facing difficulties formulating a clear and vivid picture of the future.

  3. Narrow or insufficient vision channeling is often limited to management levels and, in some cases, a complete absence of vision communication.

To address these challenges and optimize the vision process for effective change management, consider the following recommendations:

  1. Present the vision while highlighting the urgency of the change imperative, emphasizing the importance of taking immediate action.

  2. Invest efforts in ensuring that individuals understand the envisioned future comprehensively, avoiding relying on mere slogans and presentations.

  3. Involve a broad spectrum of individuals in developing the vision to garner diverse perspectives and insights.

  4. Illustrate the potential success of the change to as many employees as possible, painting a vivid picture of the positive outcomes they can expect.


In the context of change, the planning process is pivotal by delineating a realistic and comprehensive blueprint for defining and implementing the necessary infrastructure to bring about the desired transformation. It involves meticulously specifying priorities, aligning them with other initiatives, and considering their relationship with ongoing responsibilities. Nevertheless, several challenges are associated with the planning process:

  1. Crafting a high-level plan instead of a detailed and actionable one.

  2. Formulating a program that may prove impractical or unworkable.

  3. Planning without due consideration of prioritization of other tasks and responsibilities.

To enhance the effectiveness of the planning process in facilitating change, consider the following recommendations:

  1. Begin with a pilot experience before committing to a binding plan, allowing for insights and adjustments that may not have been evident initially.

  2. Engage in consultations with employees, particularly those who may oppose the plan, to ensure their perspectives are considered.

  3. Prioritize tasks within the plan, establishing clear hierarchies of importance.

  4. Define metrics for success to measure progress and outcomes objectively.

  5. Integrate Quick Wins to demonstrate early successes and maintain momentum.

  6. Develop a supportive infrastructure for change while avoiding overinvestment in infrastructure at the expense of the change itself.


In the context of change, the channeling process is critical in facilitating dialogue among the change management team, managers (ML), and employees regarding the ongoing transformation. However, several challenges may arise within this process:

  1. Establishing a one-way dialogue that needs more active employee engagement and participation.

  2. Ensuring synchronization between communication channels and aligning them with the complementary statements and actions of the sponsor and the change management team.

To enhance the effectiveness of the channeling process in driving change, consider the following recommendations:

  1. Prioritize clear and consistent communication to ensure that messages are relayed accurately and comprehensively.

  2. Utilize various harmonized channeling methods to create a unified and comprehensive communication strategy.

  3. Take responsibility for actively listening to employees and addressing their concerns constructively, facilitating a fruitful discourse that connects them with the relevant stakeholders.


In the context of change, guidance assumes a critical role by providing learning experiences that ensure individuals mandated for change possess the necessary skills and are fully committed to its successful implementation. Nevertheless, several challenges may surface within this process:

  1. Restricting guidance to a narrow sense, focusing solely on the transfer of knowledge rather than encompassing skill acquisition.

  2. Overemphasizing direct content at the expense of the soft infrastructure essential for enabling change, such as commitment, leadership, and values.

  3. Occasional instances where guidance is treated as a one-time event.

  4. Frequent occurrences of guidance being perceived as a weak organizational function, executed solely based on budgetary constraints and available resources rather than aligning with genuine needs.

To optimize the guidance process and its contribution to change management, consider the following recommendations:

  1. Conduct a comprehensive analysis of the skills required for successful change implementation, encompassing technical and soft skills.

  2. Develop a well-designed training program that incorporates the identified skill requirements.

  3. Leverage change management strategies within the training process to ensure alignment with the broader change objectives.

  4. Plan training sessions while actively soliciting instructor input to enhance their effectiveness.

  5. Customize training programs to suit the diverse needs of various target audiences, recognizing that a one-size-fits-all approach may not be suitable.


In the context of change, measurement is pivotal by establishing clear goals and expectations tied to behaviors and outcomes that drive the change initiative. It also involves the continuous monitoring of progress toward these defined objectives. However, a singular challenge often encountered is the potential inundation with excessive monitoring and surveillance reports.

To enhance the effectiveness of measurement in supporting change, consider the following recommendations:

  1. Develop metrics that not only measure success or failure but also enable tracking progress, providing valuable insights into the journey toward achieving the desired outcomes.

  2. Incorporate planning that facilitates the effective transmission of feedback and identifies coaching needs to support individuals in their efforts.

  3. Implement measurement practices that accurately record results about the desired benchmarks, ensuring that the data collected is meaningful and actionable.

  4. Ensure that individuals are well-informed about what is expected of them, avoiding measuring performance in isolation or without context. Clear communication of expectations is essential for meaningful measurement.

Other Necessary Conditions: Urgency

In the context of change, urgency assumes a crucial role by delivering a compelling message to the organization, emphasizing the imperative for change in the present moment. Leaders must lead with urgency; managers should swiftly embrace change and convey this sense of urgency to their subordinates. However, several challenges may emerge in fostering urgency:

  1. Difficulty in convincing employees that maintaining the status quo is unsustainable.

  2. Confusing a sense of urgency with merely repeating the term "urgency" results in frequent delays.

  3. The risk of losing sight of priorities amid the urgency.

To address these challenges and effectively cultivate a sense of urgency for change, consider the following recommendations:

  1. As part of the call for change, illustrate a compelling business case that substantiates the need for change, providing a solid rationale.

  2. Dramatically underscore the crisis or opportunity necessitating change, reaching as many individuals as possible to create a shared recognition of the gap between current reality and the envisioned future.

  3. Actively engage with people to understand their perspectives on why change is necessary and communicate the imperative for language change that motivates immediate action.


In the context of change, budgeting assumes a critical role by evaluating the financial requirements necessary for implementing change and making decisions on allocating limited resources, all to ensure a return on investment. Nevertheless, several challenges may arise when dealing with budgets for change initiatives:

  1. The temptation to reject all budget requests and attempt to drive change with little to no financial resources.

  2. The risk of neglecting investments in the infrastructure needed to facilitate and support change.

To navigate these challenges and optimize budgeting for change, consider the following recommendations:

  1. Entrust budget management to the sponsor rather than leaving it solely to bureaucratic processes, ensuring that decisions align with the change initiative's broader goals.

  2. Allocate funds for the necessary infrastructure that enables and sustains change, recognizing its significance in the overall success of the transformation.

  3. Leverage investments that offer cost-effective solutions while generating buy-in and support from stakeholders.

  4. Engage in a reasoned discussion about the rationale behind budgets that may not be approved, understanding that there may be valid reasons for such decisions.


The book's core message can be summarized as follows: The success of change hinges on the collaboration of an organization's key stakeholders, who must unite, harness their unique skills, and collectively propel the initiation, execution, and enduring sustainability of change.

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