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Top 20 Best Books on Managing Change

January 4, 2013 by Dr. Jon Warner in Change Management

Top 20 Best Books on Managing Change

Putting together a list of excellent books on any subject is always a highly subjective exercise. Nonetheless it is often useful to try to sort through the clutter and at least try to assemble some worthy nominations based on a book’s quality or popular appeal (and all the books on this list have regularly topped the best selling and popular lists internationally and all carry between 4 and 5 star rating on The list of Top 20 of the best books on the broad subject of Managing Change below includes only those written in the last 5 years (2007-2012). The list also includes several excellent books that are in their 2nd, 3rd, 4th and even 5th printing in this time frame. The top 20 list contains several notable authors who have written many books on the subject of managing change. These include Peter Drucker, John Kotter and Ken Blanchard

The top twenty list below is rendered in reverse date order. A short description of the book is provided but much more information can be obtained by clicking on the book image (which takes the interested reader to the page for each book).

The Top 20:

1. Leading Change, by John P Kotter, 2012
  • From the ill-fated dot-com bubble to unprecedented M&A activity to scandal, greed, and ultimately, recession—we’ve learned that widespread and difficult change is no longer the exception. It’s the rule. John Kotter’s eight-step process for managing change with positive results has become the foundation for leaders and organizations across the globe. By outlining the process every organization must go through to achieve its goals, and by identifying where and how even top performers derail during the change process, Kotter provides a practical resource for leaders and managers charged with making change initiatives work.
2. The Heart of Change: Real-Life Stories of How People Change Their Organizationsby John P. Kotter and Dan S. Cohen, 2012
  • Why is organizational change so hard? Because in order to make any transformation successful, you must change more than just the structure and operations of an organization—you need to change people’s behavior. And that is never easy. According to bestselling author and renowned leadership expert John Kotter and co-author Dan Cohen, this focus on connecting with people’s emotions is what will spark the behavior change and actions that lead to success. Kotter and Cohen argue that change initiatives often fail because leaders rely too exclusively on data and analysis to get buy-in from their teams instead of creatively showing or doing something that appeals to their emotions and inspires them to spring into action. They call this the see-feel-change dynamic, and it is crucial for the success of any true organizational transformation.
3. Change-Friendly Leadership: How to Transform Good Intentions into Great Performanceby Rodger Dean Duncan and Stephen M. R. Covey, 2012
  • Around the world, countless change efforts are underway in all kinds of organizations, spearheaded by leaders with good intentions. Despite the good intentions, the majority of these programs will not succeed. Why? In this book, practitioner Rodger Dean Duncan shows that humanness, approachability, and friendliness are necessary but often overlooked elements of making change successful. Change cannot be achieved by a press release, slogan, or announcement. Effective organizational change requires the active, mindful participation of the people affected by the change. Leaders must learn how to bring their entire team on board with changes and ensure they are invested in the process as well as in the outcome.
4. Organizational Culture Change: Unleashing your Organization’s Potential in Circles of 10by Marcella Bremer and Marcel Lamers, 2012
  • Culture, leadership and the ability to change determine organizational performance… But 75% of Organizational Change programs fail – being too conceptual, organization wide and command-and-control like. Change consultant Marcella Bremer got frustrated and developed this pragmatic 21st Century approach to organizational culture, change and leadership which includes using an organizational Culture Assessment Instrument based on the Competing Values Framework by Cameron and Quinn. Next, the author suggests engaging in Change Circles to develop vital change before copying, coaching and correcting behavior on a peer basis to Be the change and Lead the way!
5. HBR’s 10 Must Reads on Change Managementby Harvard Business Review, 2011
  • This HBR book is one of the volumes in a series of anthologies of articles that first appeared in Harvard Business Review. The 10 articles featured in this nook (including the widely known and well-regarded “Leading Change,” by John P. Kotter which became a whole book) was drawn from many Harvard Business Review articles on change management. The most compelling were selected the most important ones to help individuals to spearhead change in his or her organization.
6. Diagnosing and Changing Organizational Cultureby Robert E. Quinn and Kim S. Cameron, 2011
  • The Third Edition of this book provides a means of understanding and changing organizational culture in order to make organizations more effective. It provides validated instruments for diagnosing organizational culture and management competency; a theoretical framework (competing values) for understanding organizational culture; and a systematic strategy and methodology for changing organizational culture and personal behavior. New edition includes online versions of the MSAI and OCAI assessments and new discussions of the implications of national cultural profiles.
7. Changemaking: Tactics and resources for managing organizational change, by Richard Bevan, 2011
  • It’s ironic that while most people know what conditions need to be in place for effective management of change, these straightforward needs are often missed. The intent gets the attention; the details of execution are forgotten. The authors of this book suggest that success change involves the following: listen to the stakeholders, learn about the issues, lead with clarity and involvement, align systems, communicate relentlessly, follow-up and course-correct. Then consider who will be most affected; ask questions and listen carefully to the responses. These steps can be performed on a small, local scale, through informal conversations. Or it can be on a larger, even corporate-wide scale, through meetings, surveys, social media, focus groups or a combination.
8. Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hardby Chip Heath and Dan Heath, 2010
  • Why is it so hard to make lasting changes in our companies, in our communities, and in our own lives? The primary obstacle is a conflict that’s built into our brains, say Chip and Dan Heath, authors of this book. Psychologists have discovered that our minds are ruled by two different systems—the rational mind and the emotional mind—that compete for control. The rational mind wants a great beach body; the emotional mind wants that Oreo cookie. The rational mind wants to change something at work; the emotional mind loves the comfort of the existing routine. This tension can doom a change effort—but if it is overcome, change can come quickly. In Switch, the Heaths show how everyday people—employees and managers have united both minds and, as a result, achieved dramatic results.
9. The Theory and Practice of Change Management: Third Editionby John Hayes, 2010
  • Author John Hayes examines and applies all of the key theories on change to a range of organizational settings. Diagnostic tools and practical learning exercises enable readers to identify change and experience various outcomes based on real-world scenarios. The experiential learning exercises also allow readers to reflect on their own experiences of change. Hayes strikes a balance between describing change theory and practice by examining the key theories on change and applying those theories to a variety of organizational settings to demonstrate how different types of enterprise can develop practical tools to help implement change.
10. Beyond Change Management: How to Achieve Breakthrough Results Through Conscious Change Leadership, Second Editionby Dean Anderson and Linda Ackerman Anderson, 2010
  • This book provides insights about the critical human and change process dynamics that leaders must be aware of in order to succeed, and reveals why most leaders do not see these dynamics. The book outlines the author’s “multi-dimensional process approach” to transformation, addressing change at the organizational, team, relational, and personal levels. It addresses leadership mindset and behavioral modeling, culture change, and large systems implementations, providing best practices developed over three decades of consulting to Fortune 500 executives. The book is written for executives and managers, OD consultants, change managers, project managers, and change consultants.
11. The Change Leader’s Roadmap: How to Navigate Your Organization’s Transformationby Linda Ackerman Anderson and Dean Anderson, 2010
  • If you are involved in organizational change, including the introduction and rollout of new systems, steering company culture and/or reengineering this book is a practical step-by-step guide. What sets it apart from other books on the subject is that it is light on theory and  heavy on action- it therefore jumps directly into what you need to do and how you need to do it to meet your change objectives. This book provides an overall change process model that includes overall phases, and sub-activities and tasks that are required to effect the change. Each of these are fully explained and then summarized for easy future reference in the appendix.
12. Who Killed Change?: Solving the Mystery of Leading People Through Changeby Ken Blanchard, John Britt, Judd Hoekstra and Pat Zigarmi, 2009
  • Every day organizations around the world launch change initiatives—often big, expensive ones—designed to improve the status quo. Yet 50 to 70 percent of these change efforts fail. A few perish suddenly, but many die painful, protracted deaths that drain the organization’s resources, energy and morale. So, Who or What Is Killing Change? That’s what you’ll find out in this whodunit style story which features detective Mike McNally, who’s investigating the murder of yet another change. One by one, McNally interviews thirteen prime suspects to solve the case. A step-by-step guide at the back shows you how to apply the story’s lessons to the real world with key questions to help evaluate the health of your organization’s change initiatives, and enabling and sustaining the desired change.
13. Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change, by William Bridges and Susan Bridges, 2009
  • The job of managing workplace change can be difficult; managed poorly, the result can be disastrous to the morale and stability of the staff. As veteran business consultant William Bridges explains, successful organizational change takes place when employees have a clear purpose, a plan for, and a part to play in their changing surroundings. Directed at managers on all rungs of the proverbial corporate ladder, this expanded edition of the classic bestseller provides practical, step-by-step strategies for minimizing the disruptions caused by workplace change. It is an therefore a useful managerial tool for navigating these tumultuous, uncertain times.
14. Managing in a Time of Great Change (Drucker Library), by Peter F. Drucker, 2009
  • For more than half a century, Peter F. Drucker’s landmark essays have inspired and educated managers–and influenced the nature of business. Now, the learning continues with the Harvard Business Press release of the new Drucker Library Series. In Managing in a Time of Great Change, Drucker offers advice to executives for thriving in the global business environment of the future, covering such topics as team building, cutting costs in retail, changes in the U.S. economy, and doing business in Japan.
15. Managing Change, Creativity and Innovationby Constantine Andriopoulos and Patrick M B Dawson, 2008
  • Managing Change, Creativity and Innovation brings together comprehensive aspects of change and innovation management, providing readers with an accessible and wide-ranging resource for study and debate. Balancing theory with practice, this book looks at the human side of managing change and creativity, treating them as interdependent aspects of management and organizations.
16. Managing Organizational Change: A Multiple Perspectives Approachby Ian Palmer, Richard Dunford and Gib Akin, 2008
  • Managing Organizational Change provides managers with an awareness of the issues involved in managing change, moving them beyond “one-best way” approaches and providing them with access to multiple perspectives that they can draw upon in order to enhance their success in producing organizational change. Changing organizations is as messy as it is exhilarating, as frustrating as it is satisfying, as muddling-through and creative a process as it is a rational one. This book recognizes these tensions for those involved in managing organizational change. Rather than pretend that they do not exist it confronts them head on, identifying why they are there, how they can be managed and the limits they create for what the manager of organizational change can achieve.
17. The Change Cycle: How People Can Survive and Thrive in Organizational Changeby Ann Salerno and Lillie Brock, 2008
  • The Change Cycle aims to help readers to more resourcefully cope with change at work by helping them understand and predict their behavior and the behavior of others. Authors Salerno and Brock teach readers about six predictable and sequential stages that accompany any sort of change. This model is grounded in recent discoveries in social psychology and cognitive neuroscience, but is presented in a straightforward, conversational style peppered with humor. Salerno and Brock describe how we think, feel and act during each stage, utilizing stories of common work/life transitions and how organizations have successfully dealt with the challenges accompanying the stages. They offer tools and strategies needed for individuals at all levels, helping them understand what they ought to expect, from themselves and others, as they move through each stage of The Change Cycle.
18. Managing the Unexpected: Resilient Performance in an Age of Uncertainty, by Karl E. Weick and Kathleen M. Sutcliffe, 2007
  • Why are some organizations better able than others to maintain function and structure in the face of unanticipated change? Authors Karl Weick and Kathleen Sutcliffe answer this question by pointing to high reliability organizations (HROs), such as emergency rooms in hospitals, flight operations of aircraft carriers, and firefighting units, as models to follow. These organizations have developed ways of acting and styles of learning that enable them to manage the unexpected better than other organizations.
19. The Change Handbook: The Definitive Resource on Today’s Best Methods for Engaging Whole Systemsby Peggy Holman, Tom Devane and Steven Cady, 2007
  • Originators and practitioners of such change methods as Future Search, Real Time Strategic Change, Gemba Kaizen, and Open Space Technology outline the distinctive aspects of their approaches, detail roles and responsibilities, share stories illustrating their use, and answer frequently asked questions. This updated new edition of the book features profiles of sixty-one change methods by the originators and foremost practitioners of such high-leverage change methods as Appreciative Inquiry, the World Café, Six Sigma, Future Search, and Open Space Technology. Each author outlines distinctive aspects of their approach, answers frequently asked questions, and provides case studies and references to learn more. A one-stop comparative chart helps you determine which methods will work best for you, along with chapters on mixing and matching and sustaining results.
20. ADKAR: a Model for Change in Business, Government and our Community: How to Implement Successful Change in our Personal Lives and Professional Careersby Jeff Hiatt, 2006
  • After more than 14 years of research with corporate change, the ADKAR model has emerged as a holistic approach that brings together the collection of change management work into a simple, results oriented model. This model ties together all aspects of change management including readiness assessments, sponsorship, communications, coaching, training and resistance management. The ADKAR perspective can help you develop a “new lens” through which to observe and influence change. The perspective enabled by the ADKAR model allows you to view change in a new way. You can begin to see the barrier points and understand the levers that can move your changes forward. ADKAR allows you to understand why some changes succeed while others fail. Based on research with more than 1100 companies from 59 countries, ADKAR is a simple and holistic way to manage change.


As we said at the outset, this Top 20 list is a subjective one. However, it does offer considerable diversity of reading material (from the theory of managing change to highly practical strategies and tactics for leaders and others to apply in their work) and therefore offers great insight into the critical subject of Change management theory and practice. And if you only had the budget to buy just three of this list, which ones would emerge as the most useful? As we said at the outset this is a highly subjective decision but my three would be “Leading Change”, “Switch” and “Adkar”.

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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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  1. Andy ClarkJanuary 4, 2013 at 7:06 pm

    Dr. Warner,

    Nice list; I have and enjoy many of the books you’ve listed – I’m also a Kotter fan. A couple of others I like are: A sense of urgency (Kotter); Change the Culture, Change the Game (Conners & Smith); It Starts with One (Black & Gregersen)


  2. Art WorsterJanuary 5, 2013 at 2:50 pm

    This is a great list to start with. I have also found that there are significant events in organizational life that cause change to become less academic and much more urgent. One of these is the need to replace older IT applications programs or packages with integrated business applications. This transition requires a business to understand the internal business logic at a much more detailed level and therefore presents problems for change managers and leaders. My own leadership journey started with John Kotter’s first leadership book – A Force for Change – and has informed my life and leadership for the past two decades. It all has resulted in a new book, “Maximizing Return on Investment Using ERP Applications” (John Wiley & Sons, September 2012) that takes these change leadership principles and applies them to organizational transformation that is necessitated by the large investments in these programs.

  3. Braden KelleyFebruary 6, 2016 at 4:12 pm

    This is a pretty good list, and most of these found their way into the bibliography for my second book – Charting Change – from Palgrave Macmillan.

    This new book and its accompanying Change Planning Toolkit™ are designed to make change less overwhelming, more human and to help get everyone literally all on the same page for change.

    More information at

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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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