Change Can Happen

Plugging the Right People into the
 Right Positions Is the Formula for Success

In the rough waters of today’s business environment, the only thing that remains constant is the need for change. Smart managers know change brings opportunity. But are your people ready for change? How can you determine which ones will be able to weather the choppy seas, and which can handle key leadership roles? Who among them is likely to mutiny?

Who’s Ready for Change?

According to Charles Bishop, Ph.D., who has helped plan and implement change strategies at some of America’s top companies, including QuakerOats, Federal Express, Lucent Technologies, Bank of America, and ADT Security Services, effective change requires choosing the right people for the right positions.

As simple as this sounds, it’s rarely done. Managers and human resource people make all sorts of false assumptions about an individual’s readiness for change, ability to lead it, and capacity for performing within a changed system. Relying on antiquated profiling methods that focus on psychological evaluations, job performance, and seniority, managers overlook the very qualities most likely to enhance momentum in dynamic, evolving environments.

Bishop offers leaders a new way of assessing talent. His strategy, based on his famous “personal change capacity” model, helps pinpoint the people best able to plan, lead, manage, and implement the required changes.

Do You Know Who’s on Your Team?

Charlie Bishop has identified four key categories to help you assess the players and their roles in your change agenda:

A-players: People who make change happen when placed in key positions. A-players not only respond positively to change, but also drive change. They are eager to experience new ways of doing things.

B-players: People who provide support for a change program and can handle some new challenges. B-players are receptive to certain types of change, but lack the perspective, enthusiasm, and change leadership abilities of A-players.

C-players: People who are only comfortable with changes within their limited area of expertise. Often technically proficient and competent, C-players may be willing to try new approaches in familiar technical areas, but may resist taking on any new roles or responsibilities.

D-players: People who will resist change and may even sabotage a change program. D-players are rigid and conservative.

The Two Key Factors of “Change Ability”

According to Bishop, it’s easy to put the wrong person in the right job if you don’t quantify personal and professional characteristics predictive of success in changing environments. Here are two key qualities that determine one’s inherent ability to handle change:

  • Change response-an individual’s past willingness and ability to learn, and to modify behavior accordingly.
  • Versatility-an individual’s ability to adapt and to take on different roles.


How Do Your Players Respond to Change?

The Active Responder-is adept at and eager to learn from change-related experiences. When she tries to implement a change and fails, she doesn’t try to cover her mistake or blame someone else. She sees failure as an opportunity, and articulates what she’s learned. She takes initiative, and learns quickly when facing new, complex, or ambiguous situations.

The Passive Responder-goes with the flow, but doesn’t move people in new directions. He supports the change as long as he doesn’t have to make an unpopular decision or come up with a daring new idea. Although not the first to grab the initiative, he can be counted on.

The Reactive Responder-is often intellectually adept and skilled, but may have to be dragged kicking and screaming into using a new system, or makes changes with agonizing slowness, reluctance, and complaints. She only responds to dictates, is seen as resistant to change, and is rarely out in front of an issue.

The Blocked Responder-is unable to learn from new experiences, refuses to make decisions, and acts in an unproductive and sometimes destructive way. He is seen as habit bound and gives too many pat answers. He is definitely not a leader of change-in fact, he blocks it more often than not.

How Versatile Are Your People?

Clearly Versatile-ready right now to play a larger, broader, or expanded role. Seen as a real talent who’s flexible to meet future demands of your change effort.

Expandable/Versatile-clearly capable to step up and play an expanded role in a new or more challenging setting. Not ready now, but is expandable in the future (1 to 3 years).

Irreplaceable Pro-technically a highly valued resource whose departure would be a significant loss. A load-bearing wall in the organization who should not take on a larger or more complex task at this time.

Well-placed-at this time, the individual does a solid job, but his versatility to stretch and handle more complex tasks right now is questioned.

Minimally Versatile-a rigid traditionalist and narrow thinker with very limited capacity to handle minimal changes in her routine beyond where she is today. Will have trouble with new, diverse, and complex tasks, and may even have a counterproductive impact.

Putting the “Personal Change Capacity” Model into Practice

According to Charlie Bishop, the ultimate success of your transition management strategy hinges on a single idea: keeping the focus on change when making personnel choices to implement your strategy. Once you work up profiles of your key people using Bishop’s model, placement decisions become clear.

Using Bishop’s “personal change capacity” model, you can:

  • prioritize positions in the organization most crucial to your change effort
  • make fast, accurate assessments of every key individual and ultimately make the right developmental decisions for your business
  • create a quantifiable display of your key people’s change-related strengths and weaknesses
  • make change-effective decisions from what you learn, both for your key people and for groups ranging from teams to entire organizations
  • identify individuals who will perform well in changing environments
  • develop change agents at higher levels.


Excerpted from:

Making Change Happen One Person at a Time:
Assessing Change Capacity within Your Organization
by Charles H. Bishop, Jr.
AMACOM, a division of American Management Association
ISBN 0-8144-0528-2, Hardcover, 260 pages, $27.95

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