How to Change the World (personal notes) - Jurgen Appelo

How to change which current management is still doing and you don’t like it.

Book Cover

The world is in need of change. Nowadays, so many organizations dispirit the people who are doing the work and frustrate people whom the work is being done, empty for real meaning. Our organizations are failing!

When you want to deal with a dysfunctional organization you can:

  • Take it (ignore it and stop complaining).
  • Leave it (quit your job).
  • Change it (learn about change management).

Organizations are made by people who interact with each other across all levels in the corporate hierarchy. The hardest part of management improvements is changing the individual’s behavior.

The four aspects of change management

  • Dance with the System: changes rarely follow a straight path, social networks are complex and adaptative.
  • Mind the People: people are different (and crucial) and this a diversity of methods is needed when dealing with them.
  • Stimulate the Network: trigger individuals and their interactions, defeat the resistance.
  • Change the Environment: people’s behaviors depend on them.

Dance with the System (with PDCA model)

If adaptation is all you do, the system is always the lead.

The PDCA is an interactive four-step improvement process cycle model.


  1. Plan
    Set a goal. The aim must be clear and related directly to how life is better for everyone. People change not because they are told to, but because they want to. Find an example of things going well and copy their good behaviors, you don’t need to start from scratch. What’s your best project?
  2. Do
    Start with simple and achievable steps don’t make it harder than it should be. Pick the right time and the right place.
  3. Check
    Understand how the system responds. You need feedback as soon as possible, listen to what they have to say. Do we have caused a significant change?
  4. Act
    Capture feedback before they forget and move immediately to the next cycle.

When people criticize what they are doing, it means they care about the topic.

Ask yourself:

  • What is my goal?
  • Where is going well?
  • What are the crucial steps?
  • When and Where do I start?
  • How do I get feedback?
  • How do I measure results?
  • How do I accelerate results?

Mind the People (with ADKAR model)

Organizations can become learning networks of individuals creating value, and the role of leaders should include the stewardship of the leaving rather than the management of the machine.

There is no one-approach-first-all for social change, you have to work with people’s individual needs and barriers they are stack in their minds.

The ADKAR is a goal-oriented change management model with the following five dimensions.

  1. Awareness of the need to change. People might not feel the urgency of the idea. You will have to repeat the message constantly and in many different ways. Practice what you preach as what you do is far more important than what you say.
  2. Desire to participate and support the change. Target their intrinsic motivation: status, order, honor, purpose, curiosity
  3. Knowledge of how to change (and how it looks like). Move their minds and their bodies. Invite experts in applying interactive learning techniques and allow them to teach each other.
  4. Ability to implement the change on a day-to-day basis. Change is a difficult and overwhelming experience. Remove any obstacles that prevent people from adopting the desired behaviors and make room for practice.
  5. Reinforcement to keep the change in place. People need to see and feel they’re doing a good job in order to not fall back into old patterns and habits. Celebrate small success!

Ask yourself:

  • How will I communicate?
  • How will I set an example?
  • How do I make it urgent?
  • How do I make it desirable?
  • Who will be teaching? How will I teach them?
  • What makes it easy?
  • How can they practice?
  • What are the short-term wins?
  • What meaks it sustainable?

Stimulate the Network (with de Adoption curve model)

Behaviors (bad & good) spread through an organization like viruses.

Rogers adoption/innovation curve Rogers adoption/innovation curve. Adapted from Rogers, E. (2003). The Diffusion of Innovations.

  • Initiators: igniters of a change program dedicated to it. That’s you!
  • Innovators: the change is specifically designed for them, they are willing to change. Figure out what motivates them and grow your plan from there. Chose then carefully as in this early stage, you should not want to waste too much time with critics and skeptics.
  • Early adopters: the group in charge of spreading the word, they know everyone and influence them.
  • Early Majority: these people don’t really care about your change program, therefore it must be contagious (snowball effect).
  • Late majority: these are the skeptics, use their feedback to find ways to improve or tweak it. Do not fight them!
  • Laggards: the last group to conquer, so the new behaviors have finally become part of the organization culture!

Ask yourself:

  • Am I committed?
  • Who is assisting me?
  • Who will be the innovators?
  • Who are the early adopters?
  • How will the leaders help?
  • How do I reach the early majority?
  • How can I make it viral?
  • How will I deal with skeptics?
  • How will I prevent a relapse?

Change the Environment (with the Five I’s model)

You can steer your _self-_organization by changing/tweaking the environment.

In order to change people’s behavior, instead of changing the people themselves (which is hard to do without an expensive operating table), you might want to consider changing the environment, and let the people re-orgnanize themselves.

Appelo added another I to the Mark van Vugt Four I’s model (Van Vugt 2009):

  • Information
    Make information available to everyone. Interaction between people is crucial. Use information radiators to make people aware of the consequences of their current behavior.
  • Identity
    The brand that people want to associate with and be part of something larger. Connect the desired behavior to the group’s identity, tap into the power of peer pressure to convince each other.
  • Incentives
    The most dangerous one when applied badly, causing dysfunctional behaviors. Rewards should be earned by for the effort involved and based on behaviors not in achievements.
  • Infrastructure
    Remove barriers from your physical or digital infrastructure. Use visual management techniques to influence people.
  • Institutions
    Many organization problems are not caused by a lack of rules, in fact, because of them. Introduce some rules without a stifling government.

Ask yourself:

  • How do I radiate information?
  • How do I easy communication?
  • What is the identity of the group?
  • How can I grow peer pressure?
  • Can I incentivize good behavior?
  • Which barriers will I remove?
  • Which guides will I practice?
  • Who can make the rules?


You cannot (directly) change the culture of an organization, but you can try with simple and achievable steps you can measure if approaches it to the expected behavior. What’s your next challenge?

If you want to learn more about this I encourage you to buy this book written by Jurgen Appelo.

See also