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Organizational Change Is Dead

...because organizations are no longer what they once were. In the not too distant past, organizations really were little societies with real boundaries that did a pretty good job of keeping the outside world out. But, no more. Today organizations are not much more than mental constructs for delivering value, which is a good thing.

Today's organizations cultivate and channel resources to achieve particular aims, specifically to generate value in one form or another that people will pay for with time, attention, energy, and money. But, the walls of today's organizations have changed dramatically. They have become much more permeable through email, the web, and the prevalence of social networks.

1. All Change is Social.

If you hope to improve your performance, do a better job of delighting your customers or members, expand to adjacent markets, do a better job of execution, realize efficiencies, or achieve a transformation of any kind, you better work with the social systems and not limit yourself to or be limited by the organization.

It does not matter how good your idea is, the dramatic ROI you can achieve for shareholders, the value you can deliver to members, if you do not get people all across the system involved and participating. If you fail at that, your great idea will go nowhere. The success of every change initiative depends on people changing their behavior - that's the bottom line.

2. Your Most Valuable Players are Key.

A select group of people is going to bring your initiative to life. These are your Most Valuable Players (MVPs). They are not always your friends and they extend far beyond your evangelists. Yet they are powerful in the truest sense of the word and deserve your respect. Your MVPs will midwife the future you want to realize.

In sports an MVP is often isolated from the team, recognized for prowess and performance that goes beyond team playing and exceptional individual achievement. In a change initiative, your MVPs include every person of influence who plays for your cause.

MVPs come in all roles and functions. They make their appearance up, down, across, and outside the organizational hierarchy. To identify your MVPs you need to ask yourself, who are the people whose behavior matters most for my success and who influences them?

Here's a short list to get you thinking: practical visionaries, frontline executers, partners, thought leaders, technical experts, competitors and detractors, resource providers (time, people, money, attention, energy, enthusiasm), political leaders, policymakers, researchers and academicians, alliances, suppliers and vendors.

3. You must Kindle Desire in your MVPs

This is not about spreadsheets, data, demonstrable ROI, or even common sense. It is about building a fire that will burn in the hearts of the people who lead with influence. I am not saying to ignore data. Indeed, rationale must be strong, numbers must be in your favor, and the undergirding platform of support robust in every sense. But, it is not data that kindles a fire in the heart.

Ask yourself, what does this MVP yearn to do, what captures her spirit, what is most important to her? Answer that for each MVP, one at a time, and find the ways to align your change with their greatest desires so that by aiding your effort they realize their dreams. That's what it takes. Anything less and the results wane.

Don't settle for a good argument, or the perception of a good idea. Go deep. Find what each of your MVPs truly cares about in their heart of hearts, and think together with them about how your mutual goals can reinforce each other. Construct the new world together, co-create. Then and only then you will have the day-to-day focus that can tackle unforeseen circumstance and emerge with real progress in hand.

What are the three most important things you need to know about change today?
1. All Change is Social.
2. Your Most Valuable Players are Key.
3. You must Kindle Desire in your MVPs

It's not about the organization. It's social.

Seth Kahan ( is a Change Leadership specialist. He has consulted with CEOs and executives in over 50 world-class organizations that include Shell, World Bank, Peace Corps, Marriott, Prudential, American Society of Association Executives, International Bridge Tunnel and Turnpike Association, Project Management Institute, and NASA. He is the founder of Seth Kahan's CEO Leaders Forum, a year-long learning experience for CEOs in Washington, DC. His book, Getting Change Right: How Leaders Transform Organizations from the Inside Out, is a Washington Post bestseller. Visit for more info and a free excerpt. Follow Seth on Twitter. Learn more about Seth's work at