10 Ways To Initiate Change Image

10 Ways To Initiate Change In An Organisation That Doesn’t Want To Change

I get lots of questions from people who want to initiate change in an organisation that doesn’t want to change.

It’s a very common question as many employees find themselves working in a culture that sees change as something that is scary and to be avoided at all cost, or simply not required.

10 Ways To Initiate Change Image 10 Ways To Initiate Change Image

In order to bring about change, and assuming you have no controling power (i.e. CEO, Director, Exec) you need to slowly nudge the business in the right direction. And usually it takes time. Lots of time. And it’s always painful – at least in my experience.

Of course, you should be aware that your view on what change is needed may not actually be what the company does need.

It may be that you have changed and need to find a different company to work in. It could be that with more information you’ll change your ideas about what needs to change.

But if you are sure the organisation needs to change it’s approach or process and you have no direct controlling power over that change then prepare yourself for a long fight.

But what follows are ways to make that long fight just a little bit shorter. What follows are 10 Ways To Initiate Change In An Organisation That Doesn’t Want To Change.

1. Start collaborating

Find like minded people in your organisation and start sharing ideas, product knowledge, skills and experience. I absolutely guarantee that there will be somebody in your organisation that also sees a need to change.

Network like crazy. Use the intranet or wiki. Seek out those who want to change and bring everyone together around a common set of discussions.

A wiki is a great tool to do this. Applications like Confluence are super good. Alternatives might be Evernote, Dropbox or a private Google+ circle. Even a good old fashioned face-to-face meeting with hand written notes is good.

The important part is to start sharing ideas with like minded people.

In some organisations you may have to keep these discussions and ideas “underground”. This is a shame but a reality many of us have faced. Don’t let that stop you though. If you want to change the organisation for the better then sometimes the “underground” approach is an effective way of doing it.

Of course, don’t do anything that will risk you losing your job. And if you do work in an environment where you could lose your job for trying to make positive changes, then you may want to focus your energy on plotting your career escape instead.

2. Go to an event

Try to locate some budget to take the whole team (like minded people) to an event, or find a great free event you can all get to.

Doesn’t have to be a big conference like a major international one – a local meetup or one day mini-conference will do the trick also. A shared experience around topics you’re interested in can often unite people in a way no other activity will.

3. Give people a central resource centre to go to

Start creating a library of resources and learning. This could be a physical library of books, or a wiki page with suggested reading/watching. A wiki page where employees can work through videos, online articles, internal training resources and reading lists is a great way of sharing knowledge.

4. Make it regular

Start a regular meeting in which you encourage people to share their learning, ideas, resources and other information that may be useful in bringing about change. Try to make it a safe and friendly place to share ideas and treat everyone with respect, no matter how wild their ideas may be.

Keep notes and records and start to build up collateral you can present to management or start experimenting around.

5. Pair with other people in the same role

Start pairing with other people in the same role in an effort to learn more about what they do, but also to help to build relationships. Relationships are super important – see point 8. To lead change you need to have strong relationships.

If there is no one else in your business doing the same role then consider pairing with someone in a different company doing the same role. Be careful about data protection etc but buddying or pairing with others outside of your organisation is a great way to find new ways of working.

6. Engage with people from other roles

Seek out people in different roles within your organisation and learn about their work. Try to understand what works for them and what does not. Do the improvement you think need to be made have a positive or negative effect on others? What else needs to change? Are their more important changes that need to be made?

7. Socialise Ideas (constantly)

Start socialising your improvement ideas with anyone who will listen. In my experience, planting the seed of an idea can make discussions about change easier later down the line. Get feedback on the ideas. Talk to people about how the future could be different. Listen to others.

8.Build relationships across the business

Set up one2ones with people who can help change the process such as scrum masters, senior devs, managers of departments – it’s all about relationships.

Start talking about the change you want to see and get insights in to how they view these changes. Is it more political than you first thought?

Are these ideas already being discussed by other groups?

Are there other changes in the pipeline that simply have not been communicated?

9. Read a lot

Read some or all of the following books from the “Resources” section on my website. Go to your book store and buy books on anything to do with leadership and change. Borrow books from the library. Find websites, blogs, podcasts and free resources online to help you learn more about change.

But be careful. At some point the research needs to end and the knowledge you’ve gleaned needs to be put in to practice; daily consistent practice.

10. Build case studies

Start gathering interesting trends about the work you’re doing – and then socialise these with the rest of the business.

Find other companies doing something similar and see what you can learn from them. Invite guest speakers in to talk about how they have changed their businesses. Find example in the mainstream press of companies having great success after changing their business or process.

People often respond better by knowing that others have had success with these changes you propose.


This all takes time though and it can sometimes be a futile activity, but rest assured there will be others who share your enthusiasm for change. There will also be people who don’t want to change and who put up blocker after blocker to curb your enthusiasm. Keep trying though. Don’t give in until you’ve explored as many options as you have the energy for. And if you still don’t succeed then it may be an opportunity to look for another role elsewhere.

5 thoughts on “10 Ways To Initiate Change In An Organisation That Doesn’t Want To Change

  1. Greetings Rob,

    It seems to me that 1 – 8 are really just 8! In my experience “Building Relationships” is a part of the reconnaissance needed to understand a) what is it that the people/system REALLY object to b) why they object to it.

    Once you get a handle on those things, life gets easier. Even it it’s only a little bit!

    For example, I’ve noticed that when I’ve been part of efforts to implement change in an organisation, fear is often at the root of the problem.

    An example being “if we don’t count test cases, how will I manage/understand the test effort?” or “if we move to Scrum teams, I won’t be a manager anymore and I’ve invested A LOT of time/effort into that!”.

    Without that understanding, the risk is, I talk logically about something (eg. look how much more work we can get done with less effort!) when people are “listening” with some other part of their mind.

    Hope that makes sense. I’d love to know what you think.



    1. Hi Vernon,

      Thanks for taking the time to comment.

      You’re spot on that 1-8 are essentially just about building relationships but many people struggle with this aspect of their role. Relationship building comes easier to some than to others which is why I broke the post out to help those embarking on their first journey of true cross-team/cross-problem relationship building.

      Fear is often at the root, but politics and agendas and budgets can also be a major blocker (and yes, sometimes these too are proxies for fear about change). That’s why I tend to encourage people to start small and slowly build up a group of people who believe change is needed and possible. Sometimes a group can be much more effective at bringing about change than any single individual – but groups too are fraught with many challenges.

      One thing I didn’t talk about, which you touched on, was that logic and rational are usually awful ways to talk about change. For some people the cold hard numbers work well. In my experience though many people are more moved by stories and emotional connections.

      You’re spot on and thanks for taking the time to expand the idea further.


  2. Hi Rob,

    I agree with Vernon here, 1-8 are essentially describing ways of doing 8. I really find the subject matter fascinating, though. Many people who want to see change in their organisation don’t seem to be able to instigate it in anyway.

    In my experience of working on change initiatives over the years, I have found that bigger changes such as moving an organisation towards lean or agile delivery really do require a big push from the very top of an organisation, so influence there is essential.

    I recently worked on a large change project in the UK which for over two years saw many of the things you discuss being used to make a change happen. Despite our best efforts and many improvements, the really big changes such as removing silos and management obstacles were only achieved through directives from the CEO.

    No change is ever going to happen if an organisation doesn’t want to change, and certainly if the leaders don’t want to change. There really has to be a valid reason that everyone understands, which is where a lot of the ideas you mention come into play.


    1. Absolutely Pete and thanks for taking the time to comment. The buy in from execs is essential but sometimes they don’t even know which way they should be going and the ground level change that often highlights a new path for them. But ultimately the end goal will not be reached unless the functional heirarchy is either broken down or aligns around that end goal.

      Great to have such brilliant input from you and thanks again for taking the time to comment.


      1. yes, thats also a really good point. I’m sure there are many execs wanting to change, but don’t really know the right path to take, making that influence you describe from ground up movements extremely important.

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