Our Research

We partnered with Vlerick Business School to develop a breakthrough change management model that would be innovative, modular, customisable, non-hierarchical and holistic with long-term impact. Looking back on nearly ten years of continuous development and refinement, this article provides insight into the origins of our model, the Six Batteries of Change, including its added value over existing models, our qualitative research methods and motivations, and the model's conceptual framework.

Origin of the Six Batteries of Change

In this article, we will address some frequently asked questions about the development of our model.

  • Why do we consider linear and “step-by-step” change management models obsolete?
  • What role does managing energy play in managing change?
  • What do we mean by a holistic model of change? How should the model integrate top-down and bottom-up approaches?
  • How does leadership cultivate energy in practice?
  • What does “future-proofing” an organisation mean in the long term?
  • How are we growing and using our anonymised datasets? What future questions do we hope to answer?

 


 

Our Research

Motivating the Need for Change

“Change management,” as a multidisciplinary research subject, is an amalgam of operations management, organisational development, and human psychology.  In the past two decades, contributions to change leadership studies have grown to include countless theoretical models explicitly designed for restructuring, downsizing, cultural change, job redesign, strategic change, operational practices, and so on.  The result is a confusing patchwork of dozens of contradictory models.

Today, the academic literature on change management proposes a limitless arsenal of “silver bullets” that claim to solve long-standing change dilemmas quite quickly.  However, we know that, even when they seem adequate, silver bullets in change management grossly underestimate what organisational transformation requires for long-term success.

Building a business while guiding employees through a lengthy transition is more than challenging; it is a struggle.  Juggling regular routines with change initiatives takes significantly more time and energy than many traditional change models admit.  Change efforts tend to cause much more disruption to business-as-usual than business optimists imagine.  Leading change requires management to customise and scale their efforts based on the unique characteristics and attributes of the organisation.

 

We endeavoured to make measureable the impact of a change program or project on the organisation as a whole.

 

Our researchers determined to create a breakthrough change model that goes beyond the “how” to change, looking first at the “what” and the “why” of change.   A one-size-fits-all approach is insufficient.

We set out to design an integrative, inclusive, holistic change management model.

We wanted an approach that would not just be data-driven but big-picture; not just strategic but also operational in its scope; not just rationally convincing, but emotionally inspiring as well – an approach that could streamline change efforts efficiently and at the same time effectively overcome resistance to change among potential leaders.

Rather than putting blinders on to the greater organisation and focusing merely on the epicentre of change – say, a purchasing department transitioning to a new ERP software – we desired a model that accounts for positive and negative impact felt by the rest of the organisation – which, to lead on from the previous example, should feel their productivity impacted by the learning curve of buyers.

We knew that time and money are poor predictors of change success.  Another resource is necessary.

What else does change require?

Change is built on a sense of strategic direction and a passionate leadership team.  Change takes expertise and enthusiasm, and it requires infrastructure and initiative.  No amount of money will keep people around who feel unvalued.  No amount of time or work hours will create a healthy culture.

We started by asking companies which functions consume the most energy throughout a change program.

How does an organisation’s leadership make change stick?  What currency of change must we account for – if not total people-hours or money?

Insights and experiences from over one hundred companies in the Benelux region informed our approach.  As it turns out, most change efforts fail in meeting their goals because the enthusiasm for, commitment to, and motivation behind change fizzles out after a time.  The resource most crucial for change success is organisational energy.

Today, our researchers have analysed empirical data from more than 300 organisations worldwide using the Six Batteries of Change (6BOC) scan.  Where did this model come from?  How does it help organisations become “future-proof” in their change efforts?

Let us take a step back to consider existing theories about change management.

Why create a new model, given the vast array of solutions available?

 


“What drove us together was the realisation that we all looked at change from a fragmented perspective.  If we brought our ideas together, we could bring something more valuable to the table.” - Peter De Prins, Geert Letens, and Kurt Verweire

Confronting Traditional Change Models

  • Why do we consider linear and “step-by-step” change management models obsolete?

We know from existing research on change management that old-fashioned ‘step-by-step’ and linear methods for change routinely underestimate the time and effort needed to rally and lead the organisation to transform.

In our contemporary global context, these change models have proven impractical, neglecting the need to understand the consequences of changing course from business-as-usual and instruct organisations in dealing with emotionality.  Non-holistic models offer little practical advice about day-to-day operations, producing change that is ineffective in the short term and sometimes disastrous in the long term.

 

Too much pain over too long an interval drains an organisation of the energy required to make change happen.

 

In an increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous global context, relying on linear change models is dangerous.  This wrong-headed notion that, for example, year-by-year milestones will lead to such-and-such growth in performance lead instead to disappointment, burnout, cutting corners, and a culture of fear.  A culture of fear substitutes collaboration toward incremental change for a toxic political blame game that postpones all the most critical aspects of the transformation.

Change program leaders blame failures to implement change on two common complaints from personnel:

  • Change takes too much time with no end in sight to achieve the original change ambition.
  • Change causes too much pain for employees struggling to perform their everyday tasks while juggling additional change responsibilities.

Success in change requires enough organisational energy to tolerate and outlast the pains caused by change, like long-term dips in performance and long-term strains on employees’ mental health.

To address the failures of older approaches, an innovative and holistic change model must create the conditions to increase the efficiency of the change and reduce the burden that change imposes on individuals.

 


 

Defining the Fuel for Transformation

  • What role does managing energy play in managing change?

Neither time nor money ensures success as reliably as charged organisational energy.

Unlimited time cannot guarantee, for example, the achievement of collective goals, nor will unlimited time help exhausted employees complete their change initiatives.  The division of labour and prioritisation of projects should be balanced to facilitate on-time delivery.

Unlimited money cannot purchase, for example, an individual’s commitment in the long term, nor can unlimited money cure burnout.  Employees require room to recover at home from long working sprints.  Appropriate and necessary resources to fulfil change ambitions should already be set aside and allocated by the program office.

Limited financial and human resources hinder and complicate change, while a lack of organisational energy quickly annihilates any change ambition.  Once the energy fizzles out of an organisation’s change program, the drive to deliver is gone, the enthusiasm to collaborate is gone, and the erstwhile commitment to change disintegrates.

 

Leadership is the wellspring from which organisational energy must flow for change to be successful.

 

Leaders must continuously monitor and cultivate energy at all levels, in themselves as role models for change, in all programmes/projects and for all employees involved in change, in all formal and informal organisational structures, as well as for all strategic and operational initiatives.

An innovative holistic model of change must create conditions for integrating the rational and emotional spheres of business, include employees and stakeholders in the organisation’s collective goals, and establish a rhythm for assessment and adjustment.

 


 

Integrating Change Dilemmas

  • What do we mean by a holistic model of change?

We have already discussed how an innovative and holistic change model must deliver achievable change within a reasonable amount of time, minimise the additional burden put on employees, and cultivate organisational energy to implement a successful transformation.

The model must then address two common dilemmas in defining change efforts:

  1. Should the model adopt a top-down approach (strategic) or bottom-up approach (operational)?
  2. Should the model engage formal structural changes (rational) or informal cultural changes (emotional)?

Is change from above (leadership-driven) or from below (grassroots) more effective? Should strategic goals or operational planning drive change?

Should the formal (structure) or informal (culture) be the focus of change? Should rational values, like data, or emotional values, like trust, drive change?

Our researchers determined to integrate them, rather than preferencing one approach over the other.

 


 

We started with a simple coordinate plane to illustrate how the two dilemmas should be reconciled.

 

To follow development, scroll right.

 

Putting Theory into Practice

  • What does it take to cultivate organisational energy?

The resulting framework – known today as the Six Batteries of Change – successfully balances the formal and informal organisational structures (the rational and the emotional) involved in change and balances the organisation’s strategic and operational processes (‘top-down’ and ‘bottom-up’ approaches).

At last, the model’s abstract concepts touch on the practical terrain of everyday organisational struggles with change. Guided through these struggles in the right way, leadership should have the capacity to cultivate and balance enough reserves of energy to evolve and sustain performance growth.

 


What does it take in practice to charge organisational energy?

1
Spiritual energy flows from an ambitious top team

An Ambitious Top Team (BOC1)

A cohesive group of leaders should role-model change – as individuals and in their work together – generating the energy for change through an inspiring vision. The most influential leaders promote enthusiasm, passion, and ambition throughout the rest of the business as part of an ambitious top team.

Spiritual energy management employs an emotional and strategic perspective. It can be measured by the leadership’s commitment to a meaningful ambition. This ensures confidence in the organisation’s ability to change. Cults of personality and pseudo-alignment quickly exhaust spiritual energy.

2
Intellectual energy flows from a clear strategic direction

A Clear Strategic Direction (BOC2)

The most consequential decisions within an organisation include preambles of in-depth analysis, research insights, and critical thinking - synthesised by employing a rational and strategic view – to orient the business in a clear, strategic direction.

Intellectual energy management employs a rational and strategic view of the business. It can be measured by the breadth of the leadership’s understanding of the business’s internal and external environment.

3
Systems energy flows from a powerful management infrastructure

A Powerful Management Infrastructure (BOC3)

An organisation’s structures and systems balance the running and the building of the business with the imperative to sustain and improve performance.

Systems energy management employs a broadly rational and contextual view of the business. It can be measured by the efficacy of procedures bridging an organisation’s high-level strategy with its operational undertakings. Overwhelming numbers of initiatives in the pipeline come into conflict with ongoing projects, exhausting systems energy.

4
Social energy flows from a healthy culture

A Healthy Culture (BOC4)

Positive, collegial relationships create the necessary conditions for openness and transparency within the workplace.

Social energy management employs a broadly emotional and historical view of the business. It can be measured by the ability of the organisation to value its members and seek opportunities for individual and interpersonal growth. Toxic cultures and disrespect of boundaries will exhaust social energy.

5
Physical energy flows from action-planning and implementation

Action-Planning and Implementation (BOC5)

Making things happen requires making progress visible. Sound data analysis and thoughtful experimentation drive vitality and identify the best project and process management practices.

Physical energy management employs a rational and operational view of the business. It can be measured by the organisation’s application of best practices in a win-win for the customer’s benefit and improvements to the organisation’s capabilities.

6
Psychological energy flows from a strong connection with employees

A Strong Connection with Employees (BOC6)

There is no organisational change without individual change. Feelings of safety and support in the workplace come from establishing and strengthening every employee’s well-being.

Psychological energy management employs an emotional and operational view of the business. It can be measured by the trust and courage of leaders and employees to embrace change.

Energising Organisations for Long-term Success

  • What does “future-proofing” an organisation mean in the long term?

Fully-charged organisations energise their people for success.  The individuals in the organisation collectively work to reinvest that energy into the organisation. High-energy teams committed to collective goals make for more effective leadership, happier employees, and more satisfied customers, not to mention more positive performance overall.

 

Organisational energy is a collective dynamic force for change.

 

Whether entering a fully-energised workplace or dedicating their attention remotely during meetings, employees require and deserve to be welcomed into the dynamic collective force we call organisational energy.  This energy should inspire your people to embrace collective goals and illuminate each other’s paths forward.  Put another way, though employees are paid for their time and talent, money alone cannot buy a person’s energy or commitment.  We believe that the energy employees need as individuals and need to develop a healthy culture and perform at a high level must ultimately come from the organisation’s leadership.

High-energy organisations, where energised individuals collectively pursue inspiring ambitions, transcend the old model of time is money:  the ‘fully-charged’ organisation energises the people building it, facilitating good leadership and top performance.

Energised for success, enjoying a sense of belonging and fulfilment from their meaningful contributions, colleagues return home to their loved ones – energised rather than exhausted – ready to invest deep reserves of energy into the things that make them happy.

 


 

Expanding our Anonymised Dataset

  • How are we growing and using our anonymised datasets? What future questions do we hope to answer?

Given the innovative nature of our survey methodology, our dataset does not bring in outside or historical data.  On the one hand, the strength of this approach is that all data are collected, quantified, and secured using our copyrighted methodology, meaning the dataset is more reliable. On the other hand, generating a robust proprietary dataset large enough to answer specific concerns such as those above comes at the cost of time and effort.

 

The greater the size of our dataset, the more research insights we can glean with confidence and communicate to our clients.

 

As of late 2022, our anonymised dataset has grown to include more than 450 unique 6BOC scans completed by more than 300 organisations.  In total, the dataset contains more than 400,000 individual anonymised data points. At the time of writing, our ambition is to double the size of our 6BOC dataset to one million data points over the next three years.

 

Is there enough data already to validate our model’s efficacy?

Yes, there is.  Statistical analysis of our 2017 dataset of 111 organisational scans showed a strong positive correlation between the number of Batteries charged and the degree of change effectiveness.  Fully-charged organisations with five to six charged Batteries enjoyed a positive change effectiveness rate of 95%.  Compare this to a success rate of 69% for three to four charged Batteries and a rate of 30% for two or fewer charged Batteries.

 

Is there enough data to control for any demographic?

Not yet. Though we have collected demographic data through the 6BOC scans, the confidence intervals from the data depend entirely on the size of the population we want to investigate.  Controlling for industry and sector to determine 6BOC predictive power on a specific business type or industry segment is indeed one of our ongoing research priorities, but going more profound than this requires more data.

With the number of data points only in the hundreds of thousands, demographic inquiries about, for example, specific industries, sectors, or countries can be answered only to a modest degree of statistical confidence.  Drilling down to the granular level entails analysing a smaller subset of data – say, logistics companies in the Netherlands or IT companies in Belgium – of which we may not yet have sufficient scans to investigate statistically with confidence.

 

Each new business unit survey scan brings enhanced definition, efficacy, and confidence to both our 6BOC model and our clients.

 

You can learn more by contacting us below.

 


 

Geert Letens

Geert Letens

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