The last two years have seen monumental changes in the business world, as leaders and organizations shifted to meet new working conditions, shortages, and crises imposed by the pandemic. Some succeeded, but others failed. In the first year of the pandemic alone, 200,000 businesses closed their doors for good.
Never has the topic of organizational change been more relevant to business leaders than it is now. And as companies continue to pivot under ever-changing conditions, we’ve gathered five of the best books on change management to help leaders successfully navigate the changes and challenges still to come in 2021 and beyond.
Here are our picks for the best change management books of this year.
Related: Lewin’s Change Theory: Why it Matters for Organizational Change
Best Change Management Books
B STATE: A Roadmap for Bold Leadership, Brave Culture, and Breakthrough Results is the paradigm-shifting business book that I didn’t know I was missing. While most organizations are stuck in the dinosaur age, this book shines the light on what most organizations are missing: a safe environment in which to actually be accountable, focusing on the future instead of the past, a practical way to choose priorities, and team habits of collective execution. It’s amazing that Mark Samuel was able to successfully cover all of these topics in one book, but it just goes to show how simple business can be and how complicated we make it instead.
Using his extensive experience on sports teams and in music groups, Mark Samuel draws mind-bending parallels between these kinds of teams and business teams, leaving the reader with a whole new paradigm for organizational teamwork. Anyone who reads this book is likely to finish it thinking, “How have we never thought of this before?!” This transformational book should be read and applied by every leader in every industry.
Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson and Kenneth Blanchard
If you want one of the classic change management books, then take a look at Who Moved My Cheese? Many industry leaders cite this as one of the best change management books for management professionals and employees. The authors use the allegory of mice running through a maze to help assert that attitude is more critical than action. The transformation process will always be a constant in the workplace. By focusing on the mindset of those team members, change can be a seamless transition for an organization.
Unfortunately, big changes can often create fear or anger in the workplace. Think of that mouse in a maze. Instead of allowing your employees to panic, encourage those to have a more productive mindset to react to a change with grace. The authors want leaders and employees to take a long, deep look at their current attitudes and perspectives. As they state, “see what you’re doing wrong, laugh at it, change and do better.”
Our Iceberg Is Melting
Our Iceberg Is Melting takes the often-complicated process of organizational transformation and breaks it down into a simple and accessible fable about a colony of penguins living on an iceberg. One observant penguin scout notices something amiss with the iceberg they call home, but when he tries to raise the alarm, he’s met with resistance and ridicule. To save his colony, he must skillfully convince penguin leaders, experts, and even school-aged children to accept the need for change.
The book is a unique and charming look at personalities frequently encountered in the business world and offers a way to speak to those resistant to needed change. It even outlines eight simple and practical steps that workers at any level can follow while navigating the murky waters of organizational transformation. The author, John Kotter, is a Harvard professor and thought leader on change management. He’s written many other influential, best-selling books, all of which are well worth a read for those interested in the subject of effectively managing change.
Imagine It Forward: Courage, Creativity, and the Power of Change by Beth Comstock and Tahl Raz
Take a look at the organizational transformation process from a reinventive, creative, and imaginative viewpoint. Imagine It Forward is a call to action for the reader to initiate change before a crisis or trends necessitate a switch. Beth Comstock was once an NBC and GE marketing executive. She understands how to make changes in a big organization.
Comstock draws on her experience to illustrate the roles of storytelling and risk-taking to drive change at an organizational level. Imagine It Forward turns the tables on change, making it a more creative and artful endeavor requiring ingenuity and discipline. Those traditional business strategies do not create a narrative about the world or its employees. If you want to make your new plan a reality, you need to make people see them in that story and take action.
Doing Agile Right: Transformation Without Chaos by Darrell Rigby, Sarah Elk, and Steve Berez
Today, agile is a specific project methodology from the software development world. That type of methodology favors continuous adaptation, constant improvement, autonomous teamwork, customer collaboration, and flexibility. With an agile approach, you can empower the employees to test and create new tactics instead of focusing on strict systems and rigid rules. The agile method prevents chaos and confusion. Doing Agile Right is the ideal book for those forward-thinking leaders who need to reorganize and reimage their companies. Too many companies are struggling to innovate while still focusing on the bureaucracy of the past.
The book shows how to transition a company for optimal efficiency. If you don’t change with the modern times, your company will not have a future. However, these two ideas don’t have to struggle to coexist with each other. You can find a happy medium between those agile approaches and traditional systems. While some individuals might want to fight bureaucracy, it can become a partner with innovation. Both camps can collaborate with each to provide superior results. Doing Agile Right focuses on engaging topics such as budgeting, scaling, technology, and people management.
Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard
In this book, authors Chip and Dan Heath posit that the greatest obstacle to making any change in our lives is a conflict between our rational and emotional minds. They illustrate this conflict through a metaphor about an elephant (the emotional mind) and its rider (the rational mind). The rider provides direction and planning, and the elephant brings motivation and energy. For the two to get anywhere, they must successfully work together, and we must do much the same to effect real change.
The authors tackle the ‘how’ of this dilemma in a book filled with psychological insight and personal stories of changemakers who united both halves of their minds and achieved incredible results. Switch illustrates a pattern underlying real-world, successful change, then shows readers how they can apply that pattern to successfully change things in their own lives, whether those changes are personal or professional.
Are you ready to change your business for the better? B STATE helps businesses become more profitable and resilient, with measurable results in just 4-6 months!
Leadershift (The 11 Essential Changes Every Leader Must Embrace) by John C. Maxwell
All organization leaders will want to grab a copy of Leadershfit. Author John Maxwell focuses on 11 critical shifts needed for leaders to change and grow in their careers. This book is more than a leadership manual, it focuses on transformation in an organization, such as the evolution of team uniformity to team diversification.
Maxwell does an exceptional job, of defining and illustrating each approach to transitions. Leadershift can help an organization spreadhead change while eliciting help from the current employees.
The Effective Change Manager’s Handbook: Essential Guidance to the Change Management Body of Knowledge
The Effective Change Manager’s Handbook: Essential Guidance to the Change Management Body of Knowledge is a practical guide for the duties of a change manager. If you are looking for advice from well-respected colleagues, you will want to read this book. With their practical theories, you can effectively change your organization without creating waves. Even if you don’t hold the title of change manager, you can find helpful information to make a successful transition in the company. This book is a good starting point to help elicit change within an organization for those who have no formal training or guidance.
Think of it as a good starting point to dive headfirst into the change management world. There are various topics covered in The Effective Change Manager’s Handbook, including change readiness, sustaining change, and project management. It also has a substantial section on facilitation, which has been a hot topic in the change management community. The Effective Change Manager’s Handbook does have different authors, but you can gain knowledge and insights from their different perspectives. This book includes a good mix of voices, making it invaluable to your management library.
Change (the) Management: Why We as Leaders Must Change for the Change to Last
In Change (the) Management, Al Comeaux lays out the main reasons that two-thirds of all organizational changes fail: change efforts are too one-dimensional, and leaders fail to connect with their workforce. For leaders to be truly effective, Comeaux contends, they must personally involve themselves in the change process and both connect with and motivate their workers on an emotional level, not a transactional one. The book draws on Comeaux’s decades of experience as a senior executive and change champion, and the stories included perfectly illustrate why leaders must rethink the way they approach change management to successfully transform organizations.
Related: The Three Phases of Change Management
You’re It: Crisis, Change, and How to Lead When It Matters Most
You’re It is a practical manual on how to lead through a crisis. The authors, all faculty members at the National Preparedness Leadership Initiative of Harvard University, include case studies following real-world leaders who successfully navigated through dire times, from hurricanes to bombings to the global pandemic. Their Meta-Leadership model offers leaders a pragmatic way to understand and manage any crisis they might face. The book is an invaluable resource for anyone who wishes to be ready for when things go wrong and capable of guiding their organization through challenging times.
Reinventing Organizations: A Guide to Creating Organizations Inspired by the Next Stage in Human Consciousness
Most change management books focus on achieving success while working within current business models. Reinventing Organization’s bucks this trend and boldly reimagines what the ideal structure for organizations could look like. The author, Frederic Laloux, analyzes historical trends that led to radical paradigm shifts and increased productivity. He argues that we need just such a shift in management and work styles today and lays out a guide for those willing to make big changes to follow this newer, better way of working. The message is radical, innovative, and deeply hopeful and a perfect read for anyone who feels that the way we do business is broken and wants a better way to work, moving forward.
Related: 3 Best Types of Organizational Goals to Model for Success
Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change
Dealing with organizational change management is the focus of Managing Transitions by William and Susan Bridges. This book tackles the psychological aspects of transformation in an organization. It can be an exhausting experience for workers during these times, as they worry about their position in the company. The authors help coach readers to prepare for those inevitable changes and put themselves in a stronger position. The authors focus on transformation as an opportunity to encourage workers to embrace that change.
Endings are a part of life, but it can be challenging to help employees deal with a new leader in the office. Guiding these workers is an essential step to help create a more cohesive workplace while also managing their anxiety at the thought of changes. Managing Transitions covers several critical topics, such as constant change, transition monitoring, and initial resistance to changes, which can help leaders view those adjustments from multiple perspectives. All companies will eventually go through the transition stage; it is up to leadership to make that change painless for their current employees.
Best Change Management Books Overall
Navigating change is a difficult but crucial aspect of running a business. As illustrated by the pandemic, those organizations that cannot effectively adapt to change will fail where others succeed. But for those willing to put in the time and work, successful change management is possible even under the direst of circumstances. These five books are excellent resources for leaders and workers alike when navigating organizational and personal change.
Are you ready to create lasting, profitable changes in your organization? B STATE helps businesses increase their revenue, margins, and customer satisfaction, all while building high-performance habits that allow teams to hold up under pressure!