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Change Management

Setting Stretch Targets for Change

March 13, 2012 by Dr. Jon Warner in Change Management

The nature of change has many forms. There are some changes which are evolutionary and incremental (often called ORGANIC change), whilst others are dramatic and transformational (or what is often called STEP-CHANGE).

Organic change vs Step-Change

Organic change is relatively easy to handle as it usually only involves small adjustments to our work or home lifestyle. In fact, this kind of change often occurs slowly over time and can often go unnoticed in many cases. This can therefore be “taken in the stride”. Step-Change of course is by definition, highly different and noticeable change, and may even come as quite a shock or a surprise. The change itself may not necessarily be large in an objective sense. However, relative to previous experience its relative size, in overall terms is perceived to be significant.

Casting a giant shadow

Because “step-change”, as we have now described it, is likely to be seen as dramatic, one tactic that managers often adopt is to describe the change to come in even bigger terms than is the case in reality. This is often done by establish a bolder vision of what the future could look like with the change than is the case in reality –sometimes called “casting a giant shadow”. The goal here is to “shock” a person or persons into thinking about a large-scale step-change that will require a lot of adjustment in order to open up their mind about the possibility. As discussions unfold, it then becomes apparent that the change is less dramatic and the capacity to cope is greater or more tolerable.

A much bigger leap

In the light of the “cast a giant shadow” approach to change (to be used sparingly and only when absolutely necessary of course) people are much more likely to be grateful to have a more reasonable debate about the change proposed and may accept a much bigger leap than they would have done at the outset.

The featured video clip is a short excerpt from the ReadyToManage, Rapid Skill Builder eLearning program, Change Management: An RSB eLearning Course.

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About Dr. Jon Warner

Dr. Jon Warner is a prolific author, management consultant and executive coach with over 25 years experience. He has an MBA and a PhD in Organizational Psychology. Jon can be reached at

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About the Editor and Primary Author

Jon Warner

Jon Warner is an executive coach and management consultant and in the past has been a CEO in three very different companies. Read more

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