A couple of people have asked me recently what the silver bullet is for succeeding with change. My gut feeling response is that it depends so much on the particular situation.

An answer was needed however and stepping up one level in abstraction I observed how I typically approach it. The model below is my answer.

Some context is suitable. Personally I like to create an environment where everyone is involved and feels ownership of the situation. I believe such an environment is the perfect ground for successful change and improvement. I practice catalytic leadership which means that I do not only make change happen but also build an environment where everyone creates change for the best of the whole. Often the latter is the main task.

Meta change model

The base

As stated at the top of the picture the basis of this model is that we as leaders want to align all the forces involved in the model.

We want the solutions to have synergy between all parts (circles) which means that the change is a positive evolution that will benefit the whole. Not everyone needs to agree on the solution but in the whole there is agreement.

We want to do this collectively, co-creating. This means that we want to create a movement and feeling that we are all in this together and that the result will be a consequence of everyone’s actions. This is in stark contrast to one leader seing him/herself as the central point of controlling the forces involved.


A leader, especially on higher levels in a traditional pyramidal organization, the “strategic levels”, need to have a strong capacity for presence. Presence means here that on an intuitive level you are very tuned-in to what is happening outside the organization on a global scale. You sense what oppurtunities and pitfalls there are and what weight and risk they carry. You see the trends and pick up subtle indications from all the people you interact with. This makes you very aware of what wants to be created right now in the world, and here you find the high-impact business oppurtunities.

Presence can be developed in many ways but it always starts with your own personal development. Developing your capacity for presence is probably more intuitive and spiritual than it is intellectual. Much of the work involves removing what is preventing you to be present right now.

Imagine a leadership team meeting where everyone is pushing their own agenda based on individual competition or fear, where no-one is really listening. There is a feeling that people are putting on a mask and avoid being personal. This is perhaps an extreme example of non-presence that is preventing the organization from finding out the right things to do. The leadership team is reactive. Presence is being proactive.

The same type of capacity for presence must also be used inside the organization to sense where the organization wants to go, what the organizational purpose is if you like. If you push a purpose or strategy that is in conflict with these forces you will face resistance and change may not succeed or be slow. Sensing what wants to happen in the organization and deliberately placing your leadership in alignment with the organizational purpose will make your change much more likely to succeed. This does not mean that you are avoiding big hairy changes. Picking up the need to do such a change is just a need on another level.


After picking up what wants to emerge it’s good to create a personal vision of what you want to achieve. Vision is placed in the center of the model because it is largely a give-and-take with all the other elements (external and internal presence, needs and inspiration). The vision is often sketchy and includes many questions to be answered but it’s a formulation of what you (personally) would like to create. A vision may even be something like: “We have no idea what we are supposed to do apart from trying this process for finding out”


I have found that the most effective way of creating momentum for change is tapping into what people feel is a need. Sometimes you must raise awareness of the need by explaining the situation you are experiencing and your vision about it. Adressing “the elephant in the room” is one metaphor for such an action. Feeling is the key. Just talking about the need on an intellectual level will not do the trick, people need to experience the pain.


The real power in the change comes when you pick up what inherent drives, interests and passions people around you have. This is also mostly a feeling thing. Use it by connecting it to the needs and you are very likely to produce effective change. It is the act of inspiring to action. In the process people have taken ownership of the situation.

Emil Vikström

CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 How to produce successful change by Emil Vikström is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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