Managing Change, One Day at a Time


Harvard Business Review, July-August 2014

By Keith Ferrazzi | Reviewed by Stacy M. Menz, PT, DPT, PCS

This article looks at the similarities between change management and addiction treatment programs and what they found made surprising sense. Looking at these similarities can help organizations understand the challenges of changing their culture and ideas for overcoming them.

First, change does not happen without there being a readiness in place. While addiction programs look at “hitting rock bottom,” in corporate culture, failure is not a requirement. Leaders can increase their transparency with regard to their vulnerabilities and hopefully create the space for others to do so, as well. Forcing people to change does not work, but helping them want to change is a different story.

Second, old habits need to be replaced with new habits. Does your routine support the changes you want to make? A simple shift of engaging with your employees before you check the numbers from the day before can give more insight into why the numbers looked the way they did. This action allows for an increased understanding by management and increased employee engagement.

Third, utilize peer support and pressure to be a catalyst for change. Support groups have a history of benefitting people. Transfer that to the work environment and create peer groups to promote accountability and allow change initiatives to grow.

Fourth, sponsorship or mentorship can create results. Identify early adopters of the change you are implementing. Use these people as role models for those employees who are slower to adopt change or who struggle with making changes.

Fifth, decrease hierarchy as a catalyst for change. While hierarchy is necessary within corporations, peer role models as discussed previously can play a large role. They can have the power to successfully lead change initiative projects.

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Sixth, look at the company you are choosing to keep. Leaders should identify the employees who have the potential to drive change. This is where you want to invest your time. Also, by making small changes such as where employees sit or what workstations they use can have big results if you arrange slow adopters near your change drivers.

Seventh, focus on the importance of continuous introspection. Regular self-assessment can go a long way. Where are areas that you are lacking and in which areas do you excel? What can you do to boost the areas in which you are lacking? It is hard to implement change if you are not aware of what needs to change.

Eighth, changes in practice may be easier to start than changes in mindset. Supporting employees and organizations in changing habits is important. Also, how you are looking at these changes in practice will tell your employees a lot. Are you supporting changes that support growth or that support cost cutting?

Ninth, acknowledge all wins, no matter the size. Look for ways to celebrate incremental achievements; without the small wins, the big win may never happen.

Tenth reminds us that the goal is not perfection, but rather progress. We can coach our employees to overcome setbacks, make changes, and then look forward to that next win.


Change is hard for everyone, and as an owner or leader in an organization, you are responsible for supporting not only your own change, but also the change in the employees who work for you. The ten insights that were drawn from looking at addiction treatment programs give us some concrete tools to make small changes that can result in a big win. It can be as simple as replacing one daily habit, moving one employee’s workstation, and celebrating small milestones.

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