Many strategic change efforts fail. And virtually all of them are harder than they need to be. Why is this? And what can we do to make change more likely to stick?
Dr. Elsbeth Johnson, a former equity analyst and London Business School Professor now teaching at MIT, has spent a decade researching how to deliver strategic change in practice. Based on asking managers what they needed from leaders, rather than just asking leaders what they did, her resulting Step Up, Step Back approach challenges some of our most fundamental beliefs about how to lead change – and indeed, about what we even consider to be 'leadership'.
The Step Up, Step Back approach suggests leaders need to step up and do more than they typically do in the early stages of the change – in specific ways and at specific times; and then step back and do less than they typically do in the later stages of the change – again, in specific ways, at specific times. The result is not only change that sticks, but empowered, motivated managers who can get on with delivering change, without needing ongoing input or cover from leaders.
Using real-world examples of how to apply the science in practice, Step Up, Step Back gives you a roadmap for how to deliver strategic change in your organization.
“Too many organizations hold in their collective minds a Hollywood notion of how change happens: A charismatic leader arrives, announces a plan, and delivers change through force of personality. In her wise and provocative book, Elsbeth Johnson exposes that myth and offers a more strategic and realistic approach - one in which leaders step back and give their team greater autonomy. This is an exciting new view of the strategic change process and one that will reap benefits for C-suite executives and line managers alike” —Daniel Pink, author of 'Drive' and 'When'
“Step Up, Step Back is a terrific treatment of the structural and behavioural challenges that face managers trying to bring about a major strategic organizational change. Comprehensive of the many – often unrecognized – phases and stages involved in such change efforts, Elsbeth Johnson takes aim at the Great Leader myth so often given credit for bringing about needed change and instructively focuses much of her attention on those charged with implementing the change. By drawing our attention from the leaders to the led, by pushing out the time frame required for significant change to spread throughout an organization, and by focusing on those who ultimately have the power to sustain an initiative and make it stick, Johnson develops a most practical yet theoretically and empirically informed framework for bringing about successful organizational change – a framework that extends well beyond current approaches. This is a stimulating, sharply written “how to” book that offers critical lessons for change agents everywhere” —John Van Maanen, Erwin Schell Professor Emeritus, Sloan School of Management, MIT
“It's one of the most fundamental challenges facing any executive: How do you make your big strategic change program stick? Based on many years of research and consulting, Elsbeth Johnson's important book gives us a fresh and highly personal perspective on this old problem – it's about knowing when you should step up, and when you should step back. Every leader –regardless of their level of seniority –should read this book” —Julian Birkinshaw, Professor and Deputy Dean, London Business School
“You can't police sustained change. Elsbeth Johnson's book, Step Up, Step Back offers a new, much-needed approach to change - where employees are fully empowered to deliver” —Dan Cable, Professor of Organizational Behaviour, London Business School and author of 'Alive at Work'
“To those of us who lead, getting change to become permanent has always been a challenge. With Step Up, Step Back, Elsbeth Johnson provides a better way to lead, which both implements and sustains change. Johnson takes us through the Four Delusions of Leadership to a place where our understanding of leadership is refreshed, restored, and renewed. This is a must read for anyone who dedicates their life to creating positive change in organizations” —Thomas A. Kolditz, Director, Doerr Institute, Rice University and author of 'In Extremis Leadership'
“As leaders, we all grapple with how to execute strategy and lead change in a way that gets it done, but without us having to be involved in the detail. That's what Elsbeth Johnson's new Step Up, Step Back approach offers. This is a great book -- full of both rigorous research and practical examples.” —Ronan Harris, MD, Google, UK and Ireland
“Packed with world-class research as well as practical, real-life examples, Elsbeth Johnson's new book prompts us to re-examine much of what we think we know about how to lead strategic change and how to get the best out of our people.” —Heidi K. Gardner, Distinguished Scholar, Harvard Law School and author of 'Smart Collaboration'