Five Levels of Success in Organizational Change: Which Are You After?

How do you define success in your organization’s change efforts? Without giving this question much conscious thought, the change leaders, project managers, or the change consultants may say “solve the problem.” Or “get the solution implemented.” Or “meet the deadline and budget.” These are all legitimate answers, and common ones. However, when you ask this question of senior leaders at the very beginning of their change initiative, their answers will shed light on how they think about change as well as the process they will support to get their outcomes.

At Being First, we have five definitions of success that describe increasing Impact and value when transforming organizations. These levels depict five very different outcomes, and require different actions to achieve. The higher the level of success you pursue, the greater the ROI you will achieve from your change effort. The five levels have a “nested” relationship. The higher levels include and require achievement of the lower levels.

Level One: You have determined your preferred future state solution

Level Two: You have implemented your new state solution (aka deployment or installation)

Level Three: You have achieved your desired business outcomes because engaged employees have fully adopted and are strengthening the new state

Level Four: Your organizational culture has transformed as required to sustain and increase these results over time (think mindset, behavior, norms)

Level Five: Your organization (including leaders and employees) has increased its transformational change capability so future changes go even more smoothly and produce even greater results


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What Does It Take to Achieve the Highest Levels of Success?

When you pursue higher levels of success, you will need to pay more attention to your change process, conditions for success, and the human dynamics that arise. Because of this, success at Levels Four and Five requires far more complex and well thought-out change strategies and process plans than Levels One, Two, and Three. More time, more resources, and more “walking the talk” is required.

Most leaders say they want Level Four and Five outcomes. They want project success and business results as well as culture change and increased change capability. But we find that few leaders understand what it takes to achieve those outcomes. Their wishes do not produce them; good leadership, understanding of what it takes, and the support of the process is essential. Here are a few pointers for achieving each level. 

Achieving Level One success: New state design determined

You have a clear “problem statement” and design requirements for your solution. The scope of work is understood. You have engaged people with the right expertise to generate the best solution design. You have a clear decision process to approve of the design. 

Achieving Level Two success: New state design implemented

To achieve Level Two success, you need a change process that enables you to determine and understand the full impact of implementing your solution on the organization and the people who must make the change. You have generated a reasonable implementation or deployment plan and executed it so the new state is in the hands of those who must make it work. Ideally, stakeholders are trained to succeed in the new state.

Achieving Level Three success: Business outcomes achieved

To achieve Level Three success, you must have committed stakeholders who have adopted the new state design and are living in or using it successfully. You understand how and when to measure the value of the new state on business performance.  

Achieving Level Four success: Your culture is transformed

To achieve Level Four success, you need to assess the specific ways your current culture either supports or blocks the success of your new state design. From this, you will need to develop a culture change plan that is fully integrated into your project plan. Your plan needs to engage people to acknowledge how their cultural norms and behaviors need to change to support the new state, and be willing to do so over time. Your leaders  will need to model the new mindsets and behaviors and be advocates for sustaining the changes in cultural practices. The rest of the organization will need to be aligned to the desired culture as well.

Achieving Level Five success: Your organizational change capability is increased

Increasing change leadership capability is a change initiative itself, and can be addressed with conscious leadership attention to how your organizational change is being designed and led. Once senior leaders agree they want to build the organization’s change capability while they change, you will need to build a strategy to do so, including providing training and development in change leadership, best practice tools and strategies, coaching, and learning clinics to support real-time attention to how this and other change projects are being led and supported. Your strategy should include the development of leaders and management, project managers, change consultants, and project teams.


Related eBook:

The Ten Key Strategies for Leading Transformation

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Through 40 years of observing and supporting large-scale change and transformation in Fortune 500, government, global NGOs and public service organizations, we’ve identified these ten Best Practice strategies for leading transformation successfully.

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Related Webinar:

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About the author

Being First Team

We guide visionary leaders to transform themselves and their organizations to Achieve Breakthrough in business results, culture, leadership, and executive team performance, while building world-class change leadership capability. We are pioneers teaching Conscious Change Leadership, and provide a complete System of Transformation to our executive clients. We are not your typical consultants. Since our beginning, our primary business strategy has been to walk our own talk—to learn, grow, transform, and breakthrough to ever-increasing heights in who we are as people and what we can do as professionals. We strive every day to become models of the best humans we can become, while delivering the most innovative and impactful transformational solutions. While we don’t always achieve these goals, they are forever our intent and practice.