Institutionalizing a Company “Change” System

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Have you ever experienced the leadership challenge on wanting your firm to adopt a new change/innovation, while still keeping people focused on accomplishing their mission? The challenge is that existing inertia deflates the change/innovation initiative or that adoption of the change distracts people from accomplishing their goals. On a personal basis, have you ever stepped outside your company to learn/acquire a new strategy/perspective and want to adopt it immediately, only to have to delay implementation due to existing priorities.

John Kotter, a leader focused on such challenges, tackles this issue in his book In Accelerate (XLR8): Building Strategic Agility for a Faster-Moving World. His solution is to suggest changing the traditional organizational structure and create a “dual operating system”. People conduct their everyday activities using the traditional hierarchical models (e.g., Functional, SBU (small business unit) or Matrix) with their divisions of labor and formal accountabilities. A team of people focused on getting the change implemented, simultaneously work within a parallel “network” organization focused on getting the first system to adopt the change/innovations. The dual system might look like this.

DualOperatingSystemAs an organizational psychologist, who teaches people about organizational structures, and helps companies institutionalize systems that inspire creativity and innovation, I recognized the wisdom of his solution. Remember, to accomplish the corporate mission, a company needs to focus on accomplishing its mission and not get distracted by new ideas. Thus, without a process for allowing people to do their work, while making changes, big opportunities can be lost.


Kotter focuses on the challenge of the members of the network model whose job is to accelerate adoption of change. He says that there are 8 things they should do to accelerate the adoption of the innovation/change:

  • Create a sense of urgency around the big Opportunity
  • Build a guiding coalition to provide members with the social support they need
  • Form a change vision and strategic initiatives to implement it
  • Enlist a volunteer army of staff from the existing model to support the initiatives
  • Enable action by removing barriers
  • Generate (and celebrate short-term wins (because long-term change can take time!)
  • Sustain acceleration – keep the momentum going
  • Institute the change.


If you and your company really support innovation and making changes to take advantage of opportunities, explore the ideas that this dual system provides: perfecting the process of getting change implemented by the “mother ship”. Have you had such challenges in your company? How do you currently handle such challenges? Share your ideas, so we can all learn from them!