Change Management can be incredibly challenging, most often because it is over complicated. I have had the opportunity to work with lots of great companies and individuals over the last 20 years helping them through change. What I have learned is there are a lot of great tools and techniques available to manage change, but often they become too technical. It is important to simplify the process of change so it becomes something unique that you can remember to help you and others manage through change.

Below is a simple change management process along with my own personal change story. You can view a video recording from a keynote address I delivered at Saint Joseph Hospital in Denver Colorado where I shared my personal change story. The focus of the presentation was Navigating Change and to do this I introduce a simple change management process.


Change has 3 key elements:

  • Complexity – How big is the change? Change essentially consists of two factors – the logical reasoning/rational behind the change and the emotional component of change. The size of these factors determines how big your change is. You may remember a metaphor I used in a previous blog about the elephant and the rider. The small rider is the logic and the elephant is the emotions. When these two are at odds, guess who wins? The goal is to get these two working together.
  • Willingness to change – This is your Change Management “Traffic Light”. As you can guess, green is when you are actively moving through the change to get to the future state. Yellow is proceeding forward with caution, and red is unwilling to change, which is sometimes a reality.
  • Actions taken to make change happen – This is your Change Management “Shopping Cart”. We have the opportunity to put things in our shopping cart to help us enable change, like interactions with others, training classes, what you are reading, watching, talking about – your mindset. But just like shopping, we have the choice to put junk food in our shopping cart, things that are not good for us, that are negative and work against change.

I’d like to share a personal story that challenged me to see if I was actually practicing what I preach. How am I managing change?

When I was in my late teens I had set a goal for myself to become the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. I was so driven to achieve my goal I became known as “Drever the Driver” and soon I was working 70-80 hours per week. I was still young, recently married, starting a family and moving closer to my goal. I felt right on track until one day after returning home from a business trip when I wasn’t feeling well. What I thought was a simple sinus infection was actually meningitis and I had to be hospitalized. It took several weeks to recover from this.

Three years later, I found myself facing another health crisis.  I needed to have a surgery on my heart to fix a serious condition. I was fortunate to have a great team of cardiologists, one of whom set me down and told me I needed to figure out what was causing these health issues. I was a healthy man, exercised, ate right, didn’t smoke or drink, all of the correct boxes checked. He asked me to describe a typical day. I worked hard all day, carving out mornings and evenings for my young family, but then I would go back to work in the evening until the wee hours of the morning – every night. He helped me understand that a human body isn’t meant to handle that, and I needed to make a change. My rider was still my goal, but my elephant was now my wife, children and my health. My change was very complex.

I tried a few times to change, but in hindsight, I realized I was hesitant to let go of my goal and I vowed to turn my stoplight from yellow to green. I acknowledged that I had two major strikes against my health and wondered if a third strike would take me out of the game. I knew I needed to change, and I needed to change the items in my shopping cart. In my effort to refocus, I went skiing with a friend, and had an accident. I had broken my neck and as I lay there, my first thought was about my children, are they safe? Who would raise them? I thought about my wife, did I tell her I loved her before I left today? Was this my third strike?

I wasn’t out of the game, however I knew the change I was facing was monumental – very complex indeed. That day in the hospital my traffic light was as green as green could be, I was motivated to change. I turned my shopping cart over, dumped out all of the noise, then I filled my shopping cart with what I needed. Physical therapy, family and friends. My actions became a commitment to getting better and to my new lifestyle. I’m still skiing, and I’ve made significant changes in my life and I’m in a wonderful place, enjoying my family, friends, my career and my health.

Change can come from different sources. My first change source was me, I knew I needed to change and I made those decisions to change my job and lifestyle. My second change source was my health. I didn’t actually sign up for all of these changes, but like natural disasters, they happened to me regardless. It was critical that I understood the 3 elements of change so I could manage the change I needed.

The greatest lesson in change is to always protect your change management shopping cart. Take out those things that inhibit your ability to change. If you are feeling discouraged, take a peek in your shopping cart and see what is in there that’s helping you manage change. Remember, change is not just in business, it’s in life and it’s constantly occurring. Guarding what goes in your shopping cart and taking out what’s not allowing you to change helps keep your traffic light from turning red, and keeps the size of your elephant and rider in sync.

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