2020 Volume 23 Issue 2

Change Can Be Crazy

Change Can Be Crazy

The Go MAD! Model Can Help

Seventy percent of all change projects still fail![1] Even with all the books, articles, and conferences on change management, leaders continue to struggle. In this article, readers are promised four proven techniques to create enduring value when implementing change within and outside of organizations. The lessons come from over 28 years of experience consulting in the for-profit and non-profit sectors. When applied, leaders can make a difference in more productive and successful change efforts and establish stronger relationships within the organization. Change leaders will develop fun, practical, and proven capabilities to lead productive change.

“Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently—they’re not fond of rules…You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things…they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

Steve Jobs, U.S computer engineer & industrialist (1955 – 2011)

Change is difficult! Steve Jobs knew it took a special quality to enable, inspire, and overcome resistance, and ignite change. According to McKinsey, “70 percent of change programs fail to achieve their goals, largely due to employee resistance and lack of management support.”[2] With the challenge to lead change initiatives faster due to global pressures, new technology, and a diverse working population, the need for productive change leadership has never been more critical.

Over 30 years, as an IT and management consultant, the author has implemented the Go MAD! model for numerous clients and uncovered that part of what makes change and transformation so difficult.


  1. Go – Create movement, a sense of authenticity and urgency
  2. M – Understand individual and team motivations
  3. A – Assess team/individuals on a psychological change curve
  4. D! – Do Right and WOW! moments of gratitude/appreciation

Most change models over-engineer the process reducing it to a set of steps and timelines that remove the excitement and energy established with the burning platform and slowly drain the life out of the transformation. Go MAD! instead leverages servant leadership to build upon the momentum established during the Go phase to propel the organization through effective and productive change in four easy steps that leaders can use to “turn around” traditional change efforts to make a positive and productive difference.

Figure 1: Turning It Around


The philosophy of Go begins with a call to action or a sense of urgency. The masters in change theory all reference “movement” as a first step.[3] Lewin, considered by many as the godfather of change management models, instills a three-stage approach to unfreeze, change, then refreeze. John Kotter’s eight-step process is one of the more pragmatic change management models consisting of a people-oriented theory that focuses on generating momentum to sustain successful change.[4]

Next, Go requires a courageous and authentic leader that will create an environment of belonging, trust, and vulnerability, where the leader acknowledges the unknown but provides a sense of direction.[5] Brené Brown emphasizes that a leader must be vulnerable by “expressing uncertainty, risk, emotional exposure.”[6] By demonstrating authenticity, vulnerability, and building awareness of the change, those within the organization will feel a sense of belonging to the “movement.”[7] This is critical with the changing landscape of the workforce. Today, the work environment includes a complex dynamic of baby boomers, Gen X, Millennials, and now Gen Z. Specifically, with millennials, it requires a non-hierarchical leadership style that creates a fast-paced environment.[8] Millennials are inspired by organizations with purpose and transparency and often lack trust expecting more communication and inclusion.[9]

Finally, a Go leader is an active and consistent sponsor of the change. Leaders need to keep the momentum by championing the change and overcome the resistance. One way that leaders are accomplishing this in today’s environment is in the use of gamification. This growing philosophy in work makes change more social, which is critical in motivating Millennials and Gen Z, who have attention spans ranging from 8-12 seconds.[10] For example, LinkedIn implemented gamification in their setup of profiles with the use of the progress bar and “superstar” ratings, reciprocity through skills and endorsements section, and graphs of activity that encourage content creation.[11] Many companies are implementing incentives, badges, and competitions to create a game-like atmosphere to increase productivity and knowledge sharing.[12]

Go best practices are: Be open and transparent with the change vision and create an incentive-based structure for team achievements. Finally, the leader should be vulnerable, tell stories, and consistently connect at an individual level throughout the change. 


After initiating change through the Go stage, M represents developing motivational behavior understanding. Motivational behaviors are a critical step often overlooked due to time and resource constraints. However, if leader initiated for all team members upfront, it can save tremendous time and effort later in the process. One reason why change efforts fail is that leaders lead from their motivational point of view rather than adapting and leading from the point of view of those they are leading. For example, Millennials and Gen Z are motivated by experiences, notoriety, and flexibility, while Boomers and Gen X traditionally prefer money and position.[13] More importantly, the younger generations need personalization, which translates to individual attention and value.[14] By taking the time to invest in personal motivation, the employee feels valued and heard. This act alone allows visibility into the different ways leaders will have to communicate to drive the change most effectively.

Currently, there are many motivational assessment tools available to assist leaders. It is essential to find one that works for your organization to understand everyone’s motivation from an intrinsic and extrinsic basis. One example is the Strength Deployment Inventory. The rationale behind using this assessment is due to the simplicity yet comprehensive nature of the tool, consisting of 20 questions and evaluating three different types of motivations (Strength Deployment Inventory. Retrieved from https://totalsdi.com/assessments/overview/ ).

Table 1: Motivations that Influence Behavior Type

The use of this tool will support developing an effective communications plan and set of engagement activities for the organization. For example, “blues” are typically more subjective, whereas “reds” and “greens” are more objective and logical. If a “blue” team member is trying to instigate change with their “red” and “green” counterparts, they can modify their communication style by including data in spreadsheets and goals to better relate to their teammates. When leaders take the time to understand individual motivations, they can adapt and drive change faster.

Motivational assessment best practices: Complete the assessment as a team-building activity in the initial kickoff stage of an initiative or at new hire orientation. This activity will allow leaders and team members to understand each other better and become a more harmonious and focused group upfront, as well as, assist in building a stronger and effective communication plan.

A—Assess the Change Curve

The next step is to assess where the organization and individuals are along the change curve.[15] The change curve, as shown below, describes the emotions individuals experience when faced with change.[16] Each person is motivated differently and moves through the change curve at different rates. When leaders understand where the team is on the curve and apply the proper motivation behavior approach as discussed in the previous section, communication and productivity are improved. If leaders, build awareness, develop understanding, and gain acceptance as individuals progress psychologically through the change curve, they will achieve greater commitment.

Charts 1: Project Lifecycle – Every Team Goes Through Change


Charts 2: Project Lifecycle – How to overcome Change/Transition

It is the leader’s task to uncover where their teams are on the curve by simply asking them and then guiding members through each stage proactively and patiently. Often, the leader has gone through “uninformed optimism, resistance, and despair” before the rest of the company has been told about the change. It is a worthwhile time commitment for the leader to be consistent throughout the transition from beginning to the end. As stated by Stanley McChrystal in his book, Team of Teams, “providing disciplined empowerment can move the team faster and build comraderies.”[17]

Additionally, this is a time to engage change ambassadors within the organization to build a network of supportive people as well as those who are resistant to the change to create a cohesive committee that represents the organization. One team member may be in the valley, while everyone else is in the “informed optimism” stage. When this happens, applying servant leadership philosophies can be helpful to lend a hand in guiding other team members through the “valley.”

Assessment best practice: Illustrating the change curve at the beginning stage and acknowledging that everyone, including the leader, moves through the curve and that it is normal and expected. Continue to refer to it as a way to keep connected to the team and use it to determine if someone needs a break, a social activity, or left alone to work.

D!—Do Right and WOW! moments

Finally, the last component of the Go MAD! model may be the most important and can radically improve projects, teams, and relationships. Lou Holtz’s “Do Right” video came out in 1988, but continues to have relevance and outlines three rules and three universal questions that help teams succeed.[18]

Table 2: Lou Holtz’s 3 Rules

According to a recent Holtz interview, investing the time to uncover if there is a trust, commitment, or respect issue within the organization continues to be a critical success factor to any change initiative.[19] Once the underlying challenge is understood, specific objective and an action plan to resolve are created.

“Can I trust you?—“Do Right” translates to honesty. If a leader is not honest and consistent about the goals, metrics, successes, and challenges, the team loses trust. If leaders spend time upfront, during and even after the transition building and maintaining trust, the change efforts will be more productive and sustainable. In the Speed of Trust, Stephen Covey outlines the tax or cost to business, organizations, and individuals when they are not trusted and the direct impact on success.[20]

“Are you committed?—”Do Your Best” develops meaningful ways to build commitment, including consistent and engaged leadership, two-way communication feedback on issues, admitting mistakes, and doing the best you can in all areas.

“Do you care about me?—“Treating Others with Respect” demonstrates value for the team through inclusion and consistent accountability. Frequently, an individual or group may not believe that the management team respects their opinions because they do not feel involved or heard.

!—Another way to show respect is through highlighting achievements and showing gratitude. Gratitude and appreciation are scientifically proven to improve productivity and even health by increasing the oxytocin in the body.[21] Change leaders that follow these rules will see improvements in the acceptance of the proposed changes as well as improve their overall team relationships.

 A Gratitude Best Practice: One impactful way to show appreciation is by ending meetings with a WOW moment; as in, what or who impressed you today?  

Go MAD! in Action

In a recent client project, the Go MAD! model was used and proved to be a success. The project objective was to reduce a large outstanding accounts receivable balance and identify areas to improve the processes, the systems, and the communications.[22]

The organizational dynamic was complex; specifically, the finance organization was a shared service supporting multiple divisions and they outsourced the accounts receivable function to a third-party provider. The executive vice president of one of the business divisions instigated the project and asked the finance executive to focus on reducing their divisions balance significantly within six months (Go). This critical sponsorship of setting a common aspirational goal created an incentive and motivation across all teams pushing and inspiring them throughout the project.

After understanding the organizational dynamics and motivational behaviors (M), the author assessed where the team was on the change curve (A), and then determined the areas of the Do Right philosophy (D!) that would work best for the team to achieve its goals. Team members consisted of “green”—logic-based, “blue”—concerned with other’s welfare, and “red”—accomplishment driven. Also, most team members were in the “valley of despair” ready to give up due to the lack of care, commitment, and trust within the team and support from the organization.

Over the next six months, the team discussed the specific challenges and conducted brainstorming workshops to determine a collective course of action with a common set of guiding principles including showing gratitude for one another. Once the team overcame their trust issues, they were able to identify new reports, escalation protocols, and upgraded technology to increase efficiency. The executive leadership team stayed involved by consistently attending steering committee meetings and acknowledging the team’s progress publicly.

In the end, they exceeded the internal client’s expectations by reducing the accounts receivable balance by a significant percentage and produced an increase in revenue, operational productivity and ultimately boosted employee morale. By having a courageous and authentic sponsor who provided a sense of urgency around a common goal, developing mutual respect by being vulnerable, understanding each of the individual motivations as well as their emotions along the change curve to improve communications, the team rebuilt their trust, commitment, and care for one another and accomplished their goal. More importantly, they made a difference and turned around a challenge into a success.

Barriers and Obstacles to Go MAD!

How can large organizations implementing complex changes assess individuals, identify where their teams are on a curve, and cater to each person’s trust, commitment, and value in a fast and efficient manner? It is an excellent question, and in today’s rapid-moving society, time is a valuable resource. However, the author asserts that leaders will spend more time and more money on consultants, rework, and revert back to an old inefficient process due to increased resistance. By implementing a cascading network of change leaders and respecting that people are a critical asset, organizations reduce time and cost, increase transparent and open communications, and build a culture of respect.


In conclusion, leaders leveraging the Go Motivate Assess Do right! model will achieve change efforts with a sense of urgency, belonging, and engagement built on the servant leadership qualities of trust, commitment, and care. Yes, change is difficult, but by Going MAD! and getting crazy and focusing on building stronger individual connections to the change’s success, organizations gain fulfilling and satisfying team relationships ultimately making a positive and productive difference.


Additional References

Bridges, W. (1986). “Managing organizational transitions.” Organizational Dynamics, 15(1), 24-33. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/0090-2616(86)90023-9

Burke, B. (2014). Gamify: How gamification motivates people to do extraordinary things. Bibliomotion, Inc. New York.

Gartner. (2018).” Change Management.” Retrieved from https://www.gartner.com/en/insights/change-management

McKinsey. (2009). “The Irrational Side of Change Management.” McKinsey, April 2009. Retrieved from https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/organization/our-insights/the-irrational-side-of-change-management



[1] McKinsey. (July 2015). “Changing Change Management.” Retrieved from https://www.mckinsey.com/~/media/McKinsey/Featured%20Insights/Leading%20in%20the%2021st%20Century/Changing%20change%20management/Changing_change_management.ashx

[2] Ibid.

[3] Lewin, K (1947, June). “Frontiers in Group Dynamics: Concept, Method, and Reality in Social Science; Social Equilibria and Social Change.” Human Relations, 1: 5–41. doi:10.1177/001872674700100103.

[4] Schönen, R. (2014). Gamification in Change Management processes An empirical research by means of qualitative methods to analyze relevance, implications, and selected use cases. Thesis. Retrieved from https://docplayer.net/5026561-Gamification-in-change-management-processes.html

[5] Cashman, K. (2017). Leadership from the inside out: Becoming a leader for life. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

[6] Brown, B. (2012). Daring greatly: How the courage to be vulnerable transforms the way we live, love, parent, and lead. New York, NY: Gotham Books.

[7] Cashman, 2017

[8] Sweeney, R. (December 2006), “Millennial Behaviors & Demographics,” University Librarian, New Jersey Institute of Technology, University Heights, Newark, NJ.

[9] Forbes. (2018). https://www.forbes.com/sites/forrester/2018/05/23/millennials-call-for-values-driven-companies-but-theyre-not-the-only-ones-interested/#2391d74a5464

[10] Choi, J.W., Lee, J.H., Kim, K.Y. (2015). “Exploring Millennial Generation Behavior of Gamification Contents Converging with ICT and Sharing Economy:” Hierarchical Clustering Analysis. In: Park J., Stojmenovic, I., Jeong, H., Yi, G. (eds.) Computer Science and its Applications. Lecture Notes in Electrical Engineering, Vol 330. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-662-45402-2_112

[11] Lindemann, T. (January 2019). “How LinkedIn Uses Gamification to Boost Engagement.” Retrieved from http://thomas-lindemann.com/en/gamification-en/how-linkedin-uses-gamification-to-boost-engagement/

[12] Choi, Lee, Kim, 2015.

[13] Sweeney, 2006

[14] Ibid.

[15] Kubler-Ross, E. (1969). On death and dying. New York: The Macmillan Company.

[16] Johnson, A. (2019, September). Service Leadership Class Presentation, Pepperdine University, Malibu, CA.

[17] McChrystal, S. A., Collins, T., Silverman, D., & Fussell, C. (2015). Team of Teams: New rules of engagement for a complex world. New York: Portfolio/Penguin Publishing Group.

[18] Holtz, L., Determan, T. C. (1988). “Do right with Lou Holtz of Notre Dame.” Alexandria, Va: Washington Speakers Bureau Video., & Determan Production Services.

[19] The Wall St. Journal. (2015, November 17). “The Secret to Great Leadership: Notre Dame’s former head football coach Lou Holtz offers insight on effective team building in a discussion with WSJ’s Jerry Seib at CEO Council.” https://www.wsj.com/video/the-secret-to-great-leadership/681A9C57-273A-410B-AC02-81897BD9F7AE.html

[20] Covey, S. M. R., & Merrill, R. R. (2018). The speed of trust: The one thing that changes everything. New York: Free Press, Simon & Schuster, Inc.

[21] Cashman, 2017.

[22] Johnson, A. (2019, May). Confidential Client Project, Los Angeles, CA.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Author of the article
Amy L. Johnson, Executive in Residence, Pepperdine University
Amy L. Johnson, Executive in Residence, Pepperdine University
Amy is currently an Executive in Residence at Pepperdine University. She teaches a capstone course titled Service Leadership where students learn leadership through an experiential consulting project pairing them with nonprofits to complete business capability projects. Through this class, she and her students have consulted with over 100 non-profits assisting them with social media strategies, fundraising plans, and financial analysis. With 30 years of management and IT consulting experience, Amy has extensive experience in the entertainment industry as well as IT strategy, systems implementations and offshore management. She has her Masters in Social Entrepreneurship focuses on coaching and advising leaders and teams in achieving higher productivity, improving team dynamics, and managing complex change through her company Go Make a Difference Ventures giving 50% of her profits to help lower-income students.
More articles from 2020 Volume 23 Issue 2
Related Articles