Influencing change

Andrew Woodward

Do we manage change, or just influence it?

Change is not just inevitable. It is a sign that life exists.

The more things change, the more abundant life is.

That is the story of nature and us; you and me.

You are an organisation of cells, bacteria and a wide assortment of biological stuff working together, making a unique you.

An ever changing you.

Following this logic to its natural conclusion, in the same way, that you are an organism made up of cells, on a larger scale, our organisations are also organisms with individuals taking the part of the cells in a constant state of change; learning new things and building new relationships.

Our view of organisations has altered radically over recent years from metaphors of hierarchy, power, and machines, to ecosystems and relationships.

In his book The Web of Meaning, Jeremy Lent, postulates that life exists to be prosperous, grow, and multiply. Life is an antidote to nothingness, and our deep purpose is to create abundance.

It sounds like Maslow’s triangle.


“So where am I going with this” I hear you ask. Well, when we talk about ‘Change Management”, we speak of it as though we can control change to our required ends.

But what if it’s not entirely true? What if organisational change is constant, and inevitable, and that it’s hubris to think we can master it?

The best we can do is influence it!

Altering our frame of reference like this changes the things we concentrate on as managers.

For me, six things to concentrate on spring to mind immediately.


Six Things that Influence How Things Change

Firstly, we need to be open and honest about what is happening and why. As managers, we should never hide anything because openness and sharing creates a healthy ecosystem.

Having worked with many senior teams who try to plan their response to a changing environment behind closed doors, I’ve seen the building dis-ease in the workforce. Being open and honest builds trust, and trust builds performance.

Secondly, get everyone talking about what’s happening. Communicate often and freely. It’s a two-way street, so listen loads and talk less. Healthy communication builds trust, and trust builds performance.

Thirdly, if you get the first two points running, the green shoots of collaboration start to show up.

Studies of life on earth show us that both competitive and collaborative forces brought forth life. A business must also be competitive to survive and collaborative to thrive.

Jim Collins, the author of Good to Great, one of my favourite books on business’s long-term prosperity, shows that collaborative leaders supported more successful businesses than short-term heroes at the helm.

Collaboration builds community, and community builds trust, which in turn creates performance.

Number four is to measure often and adjust actions accordingly.

Meaningful measurement to understand external influences and align reactions makes a lot of sense. Measuring is about understanding whether actions taken are working or not.

Share the results, good and bad. Openness builds trust, and trust breeds performance.

Number five harks back to point three, collaboration. We’re getting to the end of the list, and this one is about getting internal and external sponsors involved.

Get these groups to provide leadership, give free back and encouragement.

There is nothing more demoralising than working flat out on an innovative, creative, and economically beneficial project, only to find your stakeholders have other priorities. They appear disinterested, unresponsive, or just plain bored. You can tell I’ve been here before and got the T-shirt.

So, get the support of your stakeholder group before you kick off any work. Make sure they know what is expected of them. Be explicit. They won’t know if you don’t tell them.

Knowing that stakeholders are supportive generates more open conversations, which builds trust, and you know what trust makes. Performance!

And finally, number six. Six is the hardest to bring into creation, but if you can build a culture of accepting self-reflection, you’re on to a winner. You can influence change a great deal.

Self-reflection includes challenging your working practices to improve them. To do this, eradicating blame and fault is critical. Responsibility is still maintained, but blame must go.

You’ll have noticed that although we have a list of six points, they heavily influence each other. If one of the six is missing, the others can’t function properly. So, to enable this most potent influencing factor, self-reflection, the five preceding elements must work.

Nothing must be hidden from view, creating safety, communicating constantly, collaborating, and sponsoring leadership creates a fertile environment, and measurement allows for actions leading to growth and prosperity. Self-reflection is like a cell of an organism renewing and supporting the whole.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my exploration of change and influencing factors. Please look through any of my other blogs as well for exciting content. Blog – Woodward Consulting (

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