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5 Best Change Management Books of 2021

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

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.

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. The book 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.

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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 Organizations 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

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.

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