Whilst it might not be new news to say that ‘change is constant’, the pace of change has accelerated exponentially in recent years.

The impact of significant external disruptors, from coronavirus to Brexit, supply chain challenges to rising operational costs, have been shown to have the potential to completely blindside any well-developed strategies we might put in place. But change isn’t always for the worst or to our detriment. Whilst some larger, external changes might feel worryingly intangible and uncontrollable, when navigated through by high performance focused leadership decision makers, these changes can be exciting, engaging, and transformative for the better. What needs to be realised is that ‘Business as usual’ is no longer business as usual.

Research carried out by Leading Edge found that only 25% of organisations have realised that when they embrace and adapt to change, it means they are able to retain and recruit talent more easily, providing team members with a sense of personal ownership along with the tools for high performances.  According to Leading Edge’s High Performance Insights fewer than 1 in 5 leaders (19%) were confident their organisations are capable of adapting to change in any way at all.

Michaela Weller, Director of Brand and Offer at Leading Edge says, “We need to create an ongoing focus of continual discovery by analysing our insights internally and our wider influences. Leaders need to put structure in place to equip people to adapt.”

The 5 biggest barriers to being change enabled

  1. Belief that it is too difficult to change as an organisation
  2. Struggle to turn strategy into action
  3. Lack of ability to embrace change as ‘practicing futurists’
  4. Inability to engage teams to navigate the change
  5. No individual clarity of ‘what’s in it for me?’


How to overcome these barriers

Leading Edge, experts in high performance, believe that the term ‘change management’ is a ‘fat phrase’. It gets used as a label for everything from a new system integration, to organisation redesign, to an aspirational competence for leaders. What underpins all these definitions of change management is that success is anchored in collective and individual identity, belief, skill and behaviour.

Whether change is led internally by a leadership team, or imposed externally from disruptive outside forces, organisations should seek to become ‘change enabled’ by embracing the opportunities of change.

Leading Edge’s model of how organisations embrace change starts with leaders who are brave enough to ‘go first’ and role model it so others can follow.  These leaders need to make it easy for the teams around us to understand the change, and importantly be skilled and enabled to redefine their work and ways of working to align to the new ‘dance’.

And within all of this, we have to recognise and focus on the human reactions to change – using the Change Formula (inspired by Kathie Dannemiller’s own ‘Change Formula’) to engage their head, hearts, and guts in the change.

The Change Enabled Future: Key Considerations

Michaela Weller says, “We shouldn’t underestimate the power of will to making or breaking a change – organisations need momentum for change, and that comes from engaging the people at every level.”

The Leadership Dance

Whilst the role of the leader isn’t always to spot the change, they do need to be the first to actually lead the change; their role is to be first up and galvanise the entire organisation behind the appropriate response.

The Explorer Discovery Mindset

The future of change is only going to become more uncertain, varied, and complex. To better prepare for a landscape of constant change we need teams to be agile and able to quickly adapt. And it’s not just the leadership team who should be on the lookout for change: everyone needs to have their eyes on the horizon, scanning for change. It’s developing this explorer mindset that we need to encourage everyone to grow and master for their respective teams and the futureproofing of your entire organisation.

Success Can Be the Enemy

Whilst we’ve all recently experienced an immense collective change brought about by coronavirus, we have also had to embrace levels of agility and speed we thought were impossible. But change is never done. Even the most successful high-performance organisations are perpetually striving to identify new opportunities and to zig while others zag. The risk of success is complacency. Organisations and leaders need to embrace a constant state of ‘readiness’, and ensure we all have the capacity, tools, and mindset to pivot.

Case Study: Embracing Change with the Football Association

Phil Church, Senior Professional Game Coach, shares his top tips for tackling change both on and off the pitch. He says, “The future for adapting to change is uncertain, varied, and complex. To better prepare for a landscape of constant change it would be useful to create an ongoing focus for continual discovery, research, and insight in the specific industry and wider influences. This ongoing information would help inform the organisation with more detail and more quickly.”

Goal #1: Get ‘future fit’ with improved forecasting

In order to keep abreast of impending changes and potential problems, organisations need to invest significant time and energy into their external perspective gathering. The landscape is never constant, so being able to recognise and react to the external and internal environment is a much needed organisational skill.

Goal #2: Pick your players and build your team mindfully

Given the complexity of, firstly, goals and purposes specific to individual organisations and, secondly, the multitude of changes potentially impacting them at any given time, some change will not always be relevant to everyone in the organisation at the same time in the same way.

Goal #3: Get your team off the bench and into the boardroom

When it comes to being change enabled, collaboration is key. Ensure that individuals and their teams are being well-represented in the decision-making process to help shape the change before it’s implemented and make its adoption much easier and frictionless.

For more on how to FA embrace change, download the High Performance Insights or visit Leading Edge.