Webinar Recap: Leading the Change Management Process from Resistance to Embrace

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Natalie Grasso Cockrell
Natalie Grasso Cockrell
Natalie is a Workplace Consultant at Herman Miller and the former Editor of Work Design Magazine. She’s currently based in Pittsburgh.

Highlights from last week’s change management webinar with Cheryl Duvall.

Image courtesy of Cheryl Duvall.

On Tuesday, Cheryl Duvall, president of Avancé, and author of the recently published book, Change is on the Wind: Managing Change for a New Landscape, presented “Leading the Change Management Process from Resistance to Embrace”.

“The nature of work is changing so rapidly,” said Duvall. “We’ve reached a tipping point, where organizations are finally recognizing that people need help with these things.”

She explained that even small-scale renovations may require a change management program if the change is perceived to be disruptive in the eyes of valued stakeholders. “Organizations are seeking–and demanding–change management programs to hand-hold them through bold cultural change so that their organizations embrace change rather than resist,” she said.

Here’s a recap of the ideas and strategies that Duvall shared that you can apply immediately if your own organization is about to embark on a change program:

Kotter’s eight steps: The “how” of change management

Image courtesy of Cheryl Duvall.
Image courtesy of Cheryl Duvall.

“This is the ‘how’ of leading change,” said Duvall. “I have implemented many successful change management programs based on these steps, and highly recommend them to anyone embarking on [one].”

  • Establish a sense of urgency
  • Create a guiding coalition
  • Develop vision and strategy
  • Communicate change vision
  • Empower broad-based action*
  • Generate short-term wins
  • Consolidate and build on gains
  • Anchor new approaches (make it stick!)

“You’ll note that ‘Empower broad-based action’ is asterisked,” added Duvall. “In my experience, this is the key to success. By empowering the people, by genuinely involving them in the change, by listening to them, by working with them and through them–this is how change is embraced rather than resisted.”

Key takeaways from change case studies

To show how the eight steps have been adapted to support change initiatives, Duvall shared four stories from the field, isolating which steps helped each program to succeed.

1. Non-profit

“[This story was] especially compelling because of its small number of staff, and the fact that they implemented a change management plan using no external consultants,” said Duvall. “[It was like] a ‘DIY’ change management program.”

What made this project successful?

  • Strong vision
  • Empowerment
  • Lead by example
2. Professional services firm

“The change management program for [this project] right now is focused on the upcoming relocation of their headquarters, involving 580 staff,” said Duvall. Their biggest pain point is having to transfer physical files to virtual, and decluttering and purging “stuff”.

What is making this project successful?

  • Sizable mock-up
  • Truly listening
  • Purge campaigns
3. State government

Here, the employees of a state agency with a planned move to a new build-to-suit facility in Northern Va., were expressing angst “when the architect proposed smaller offices and workstations overall, fewer private offices, lower panels, more glass, no suites or boundaries, and far fewer areas for stuff and storage,” said Duvall. “Furthermore, they would be relocating eight miles closer to D.C., which equated to 30-40 minutes of more commute time depending on the hour of the day.”

Duvall went on to explain that the change management program “began during the schematic design phase because the architect was basing their designs on 80 square foot workstations, a reduction from the 96 square foot workstations they had enjoyed for 20 years. The architect really wanted 64 square feet but couldn’t get them to appreciate the amenities that could be provided, like huddle rooms and collaboratioin areas in the remaining space. It was these conversations that got the stage agency to agree to the need for change management.”

One great example of their dedication to the process was the formation of twelve change committees. “Each of the committees had dedicated members who worked on topics they were passionate about,” said Duvall. “They were empowered to facilitate change.”

Image courtesy of Cheryl Duvall.
Image courtesy of Cheryl Duvall.

What made this project successful?

  • Dedicated change agents
  • Etiquette guidelines
  • Engaging activities
  • Communications
4. Fortune 500 company

“This story is one of true embrace,” said Duvall. “[T]he new CEO was intentionally being disruptive. Breaking the mold. He wanted 100 percent open office—including himself and his staff. The pain level was very high. Fortunately, he began change management very early.”

What made this project successful?

  • Strong vision
  • Pilot projects
  • Support


What did all four projects have in common?:

  • Compelling vision
  • Strong leadership
  • Engaged staff
  • Empowered broad based action

“The nature of work is changing dramatically, and we are the ones who need to lead the change,” Duvall told the audience. “Change management has finally reached the tipping point. It’s about time, and I couldn’t be more excited about the possibilities that lie ahead.”

Natalie Grasso Cockrell
Natalie Grasso Cockrell
Natalie is a Workplace Consultant at Herman Miller and the former Editor of Work Design Magazine. She’s currently based in Pittsburgh.
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  1. Thank you for the recap as I missed the webinar.

    A cautionary note from Kotter himself on trying to change organizations from within (Accelerate! HBR 2012), a range of other frameworks (see this list by Ron Leeman posted on LinkedIn) and a clear understanding (my blog post) of the outcomes and the reasons why, can not only address resistance but reduce the time needed to embrace change.

    2015 will be the year of acceleration!

    Happy New Year to all



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