Why Leaders Must be in Control over the Direction and Pace of Organizational Change

How Leaders Often “Lose the Plot” Midway through the Change

When organizations embark on change initiatives, it is necessary for them and the leaders who lead them to be in control over the direction and pace of change.

While organizations tend to plan ahead before initiating organizational change initiatives, more often than not, those in charge tend to “lost the plot” midway and begin to lose control over both the direction and pace of change.

Indeed, there are any number of examples from the corporate world and the Real World where business and political leaders struggled midway through the change initiatives to stem the losses and to manage the fallout from sudden, disruptive, and disorienting change.

For instance, the decision to demonetize the majority of the currency in circulation in India in November 2016 is a classic example of how leaders often initiate change without thinking through the consequences or the effects of such changes.

Moreover, they are also not clear about the objectives, outcomes, and the reasons for initiating such changes which results in them “shifting the goalposts” or in other words, changing the success factors and criterion for such changes midway through the process.

Course Correction and “Shifting the Goalposts” in a VUCA World

Talking about Shifting Goalposts or reorienting the change process, it is indeed the case that leaders and their advisors often “course correct” midway or in other words, change the parameters, the success factors, the key result areas, and the objectives and outcomes themselves in response to the changing situations and circumstances.

Indeed, there is no reason why the initial objectives and parameters cannot be changed midway as the effects of disruptive and disorienting change are often hard to anticipate before hand in addition to the near impossibility of “having a grip” on the change process.

As such, we are living in a VUCA or Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous world where even the best experts and leaders often fail to gauge the effects as well as results of their supposedly game changing decisions.

As can be seen from the way in which Indian corporates such as Infosys and the TATA Group made a series of change inducing decisions regarding leadership, acquisitions, and tweaks to the business models that backfired, so to say, even Iconic business and political leaders often stumble due to the aforementioned external and internal VUCA characteristics.

Leaders Must be in Control of the Direction and Pace of Change

Indeed, there is nothing wrong in admitting one’s mistakes and moving on with the lessons learnt serving as the blueprint for succeeding change initiatives.

Having said that, one cannot also say that when leaders drive organizational change, they do so without estimating the effects of such change on their customers, employees, and other stakeholders. Moreover, there is no justification for “half baked” ideas and ill thought out and poorly implemented change initiatives.

Indeed, after all, the business leaders whose reputations have been made through their repeated success in driving change and transformation means that the “margin of error” for them is much lower than for others who are their followers.

Thus, this means that business leaders ought to be in the Driver’s seat when change processes are initiated.

In this context, it is worthwhile to note that there are some emerging change management models that leaders can adopt and follow when initiating organizational change.

One such model is the Agile Development methodology that seeks to implement a process of adaptive, self sustaining, systemic, flexible, and symbiotic change with its emphasis on systems theory and its response to the fast changing and real time external world that most corporates operate in now.

Indeed, Agile can be an answer to those leaders struggling to deal with unpredictable aspects when they drive organizational change.

Agile Methodology and Scrum Process Framework for Disruptive and Disorienting Change

For instance, Agile emphasizes the need for organizations to have cross functional teams which do not operate in “silos” and instead, operate in a flexible and adaptable manner. Further, Agile prescribes such teams to be adaptive meaning that they react and respond in real time to the internal and external strategic imperatives.

Moreover, being symbiotic and flexible, agile organizations and the teams in them can orient and reorient themselves as per the needs of the situation and the fast changing circumstances.

Thus, many experts suggest and recommend that business leaders embark on the agile route and implement the Scrum process framework which is the concomitant implementable process model for Agile in their organizations.

The reasoning behind this is that by embracing Agile and implementing Scrum, leaders and their organizations would be better placed to deal with the effects of sudden and disruptive and disorienting change.

Moreover, Agile can also help leaders to constantly monitor the outcomes against the objectives and tweak the parameters and the other criterion according to the exigencies of the situations. Thus, leaders are better placed to deal with complex situations that need nonlinear responses to them.


Lastly, it is also the case that organizational change initiatives often depend on the personalities of the leaders who are driving them.

Thus, a charismatic and transformational leader is better placed to drive change especially when such changes boomerang since the followers are more likely to vest credibility on them and hence, “give them more time” when compared to others who do not “bond” with their followers.

To conclude, driving organizational change is a complex and difficult endeavor which disrupts the “status quo” and hence, can have unanticipated effects. This is more the reason for business leaders to be in charge of the direction and pace of such change.

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