1-2 Application

1-2 Forces for Change - Application

Why change? In this lesson, you will identify the pushing and pulling forces for change in your organization and the inertia of the status quo that is holding you back. Specifically, you will describe your dissatisfaction with your current organization. Then you will describe the vision or desired reality that you want to achieve. Finally, you will identify those things holding you back from moving forward and making progress towards your vision. 

Forces for Change Framework (1-1)


  • Describe your Dissatisfaction with your current organization (division, department, etc.). 
  • Describe the Vision or Desired Reality that you want to achieve. 
  • Identify the things holding you back from moving forward and making progress toward your vision - Inertia. 

Dissatisfaction with Current Reality

What are the sources of dissatisfaction? Describe why you are not satisfied with the status quo, including any crises you may be facing, stakeholder pressures (both internal and external), competitors, regulatory pressures, and any industry disruptions that may be going on.

Some examples of dissatisfaction might include you are losing market share, struggling to address new regulations, or workforce turnover may be high resulting in additional expenses and affecting other aspects of the business. Perhaps you are having trouble with a new product or experiencing a crisis, and social media is making it worse. The task here is to identify the sources and why you are not satisfied. Don't get sidetracked into working on solutions. Just capture what “is” right now.

Desired Reality 

To write down your compelling vision of the future, address the following questions. What is your compelling vision of the future? What does the organization look like that you really want? What are the ultimate products and services and customer experiences? What is the ideal culture? What does it like to work in the organization that you really want? Make this as explicit and as vivid as possible, but don't get stuck trying to develop something that you don't have right now. In a later lab, we will work on developing the compelling directive further. 

Some examples of the desired reality might be the best products and services in your niche as viewed by the customer and measured by market share. Or an ideal organization might be one where the workforce shares in the success or profitability, or maybe it's a truly great place to spend your working life as perceived by your organization's members. Perhaps your ideal organization is a culture of learning and continuous improvement. This worksheet aims to capture your current ideas and any formally documented descriptions of the desired future.

Inertia – Status Quo

The third and last step is to identify the things that hold your organization back from making the changes that would result in the organization you really want. What habits are keeping you from changing? What are your people satisfied with that allows them to stay in the same old rut? What cultural traditions are preventing your organization from changing? 

Maybe your people like the culture you have, and now you need to change, and people are resistant. Perhaps you have a pleasant working environment with few demands to learn new things and change and consequently, it is a comfortable rut. Or maybe your benefits package and the incentives are not motivating anyone to change. Maybe everybody is naively happy with the current performance, ignorant of what performance is possible. The task here is to identify those things that are getting in your way. Then develop ways to mitigate or eliminate those things that are holding you back in subsequent labs. 

Complete Your Own Worksheet

  • Download - To complete this worksheet, download the Lab #1 editable worksheets. 
  • Complete - Fill out the three sections in the worksheet yourself or with your group. Some people like to use sticky notes to capture their ideas, making it easy to change and reorganize the worksheet as it develops. Other people do this on a whiteboard or flip chart so participants can see everyone’s inputs. It depends on your style and whether you are doing it by yourself or with your group.
  • Review - Present and explain your Forces for Change Framework to your colleagues, boss, and subordinates and get their feedback. 
  • Revise - Incorporate their feedback into your revised version. 

Repeat until you have a consensus on the Forces for Change. But don't get hung up on this step. Everyone doesn't have to agree at this point, but you want to incorporate as many ideas from as many perspectives in the organization as possible to get to the final version that will serve you right now.

Leader as Organization Designer

As a leader of the transformation - Job #1 is to understand and describe the need for change and then communicate that need to the multiple stakeholders. A role model leads the dialogue to identify the forces for change. It is the leader’s job to lead the conversation and discussion to identify the forces for change. As you lead the dialog, acknowledge the accomplishments and the opportunities for improvement. While you are examining the forces for change and the organizational aspects that need to change to be successful, there is a risk of developing a negative attitude. At the same time, you want to honor what has been done well and the successes over time, but not let that hold you back from realizing that the organization needs to change to succeed in the future. Collaboratively work with the team to identify and understand the forces; that way, the team members have a sense of ownership, understand the forces for change, and are motivated to help lead the change. When you communicate the forces for change, balance advocacy for the forces you identified with the inquiry into the stakeholders’ ideas. Engage them in a frank two-way dialogue to get the stakeholders to provide what they think about the forces for change. Acceptance of the forces may take time. At first, stakeholders may deny the need for change. While staying open to alternative views, be persistent when communicating the need for change and at the same time engage them in a dialogue to help people to adopt the forces for change as their own. Leverage the forces for change and use the forces to transform the organization. Be sure to hold leaders accountable at all levels of the organization, from top to bottom. Understand the system issues behind the forces for change. The forces for change are often interrelated, and there are ways to address those forces using a systems approach that takes advantage of common leverage points. Take the time to personally identify and study the forces for change. Use multiple sources to stay current on the forces for change yourself through personal learning and development. Do not delegate this task to someone else!

Reflection Questions

Reflect and then identify what have you learned about the forces for change.

  • What are the biggest opportunities for improvement in your organization?
  • What external trends threaten your organization's ability to succeed (e.g., technology, customers, competition, economy, regulation, supply chain, partners)?
  • What internal issues limit your organization's ability to address the external challenges and succeed (e.g., workforce capability and capacity, organizational culture, innovation)?
  • How dissatisfied are the people in your organization with the organization's performance? 
  • How compelling is your organization's vision of what it "can be”? 
  • How realistic is the plan to achieve the vision?
  • Will the people in your organization do what is necessary to achieve the vision? If not, why not? 
  • Do leaders communicate the WHY of change to all levels of the organization so that everyone understands the need to change?
  • How quickly is your organization improving and making progress toward the vision?

Optional - In lesson 14-2 Organization Self-Assessment, you will conduct an assessment of your organization that addresses all Labs 1 through 14. If you want to complete the assessment as you go through each lab, go to lesson 14-2 and complete the worksheet for this lab.  


The forces for change are necessary to overcome the inertia of the status quo. As an organization designer, the leader must understand, create, and leverage these forces to transform the organization effectively. The next nine labs (#2 through #10) form a systematic approach to leadership that integrates the forces for change. These leadership activities apply the concepts of dissatisfaction with the current reality, the desired reality, planning, and credible leadership to move the organization toward sustainable excellence. Actively manage the forces for change throughout the transformation. 

Optional - In lesson 14-3 Reflect and Recreate you will reflect on everything that you have learned in all 14 labs and develop an action plan. If you want to get started on making changes now you can go to lesson 14-3 and download the worksheets to use as you complete each lab.

Complete and Continue