Agents of Change: 4 Tips for Leading a Built-to-Change Model

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Organizational change is inevitable. Whether internal or external factors catalyze this change, it can happen frequently, often, or be irregular. Regardless, its implications can be far reaching, and as an organization it is important to be prepared, which includes making sure individual employees are as prepared as they can be.

One strategy implored by an increasing number of companies and teams, is the built-to-change model. As opposed to the built-to-last model, in which companies establish a foundation of rigid structure and consistency, the built-to-change organizational model establishes an expectation and foundation of volatility in an overall organic structure. This makes the model much more adaptable to changes that may arise. Employees working for an organization that is built-to-change, are required to be innovative, quick learners and decision-makers, and very adaptable to change.

1. Decide if your company should be built for change

  • Does your company or department experience regular volatility?
  • Is your employee turnover rate higher than usual?
  • Do staff work in with short time-frames to complete tasks?
  • Does your company consistently deal with external and/or internal change factors?

If you can answer yes to most or all of these questions, a built-to-change model may be effective for your company. Remember that this takes time to implement, and staff training is one of the most important implementation factors when considering this model. Below are several items to consider when moving forward with a built-to-change model.

2. Anticipate Costs

As an organization shifts towards a more organic model for future change and adaptability, many factors change with it. Sometimes, this comes at a disadvantage to the employees, or the organization depending on the work it does. Weidner, Barrett, and Oborn (2017) present one of largest challenges to implementing the built-to-change model by stating, “strategic change initiatives are costly. They involve committing financial, human, and other types of resources to parts of an organization that are targeted for change by senior managers” (p. 1).

The process of changing the structure of an organization to not only accept and manage change effectively, but anticipate change, can consume a large amount of time, energy, finances, and other resources. Volatility in a system regulated by change is another organizational concern for those in a built-to-change model. Oxford Dictionaries defines volatility as, “liable to change rapidly and unpredictably, especially for the worse” (2017, para. 1).

  • Time
  • Energy
  • Resources
  • Human Capital

2. Get Your Executives on Board

There are pros and cons to this within the change model. Working in an environment with a predisposition for volatility, a change model would most likely suffice to be able to actively anticipate change factors and their effects. This would eliminate some risk of change to the organization as a whole. However, if change was not an extremely common workplace factor, there is decreased volatility, the switch to the built-to-change model may not be completely justifiable, though a hybrid system may allow the company to be forward thinking and plan for any changes that may occur.

  • Present your reasoning
  • Deliver your strategy
  • Include a timeline for the implementation process

4. Develop Your Staff

There are many unpredictable and negative factors that come into play within the organizational built-to-change model. In a positive of being ready for change, an employee may feel that their company is less focused on their personal development within the definition of their position, and more focused on simply achieving individual goals. The sense of collectivism is therefore removed, allowing for individuals to make or break themselves solely based on their individual performance.

There may also be an increased variety of experiences, and one must know how to manage and adapt to multiple issues at once. If an employee is also used to a hierarchal structure that is less organic and ambiguous in its task delegation, a change model would not be ideal.

For an individual employee, there are certainly benefits to a change-based model. If one takes initiative, can be adaptable, and be a quick learner in a professional setting, there is almost always room for growth at any organization. Jobs within a change model are typically more performance-based, with frequent goal setting often taking place.

Staff development can enable employees to constantly be mindful of their strengths and weakness, and set their goals accordingly. According to Palmer, Dunford, and Buchanan, “the built-to-change organization uses design principles concerning talent management, reward systems, organization structure, information and decision processes, and leadership” (2017, p. 125). If an organization can create an ideology of change, it can begin to work on its sustainability, which is important for the individual employees.

  • Train your staff on change processes (internal/external factors)
  • Encourage a solutions-based mentality (enable staff to come up with their own solutions)
  • Meet regularly with staff to engage in feedback and performance evaluations
  • Listen to your staff and provide coaching during the implementation process

Built-to-change models are key to anticipate organizational change, and create a culture of adaptability. This can assist in employee retention, quality control improvement, and increased task accomplishment. It is important to be mindful of change implementation in any professional setting, as it is extremely useful when the inevitability of professional change is realized in any organization.


Oxford Dictionaries (2017). Definition of ‘volatility’. Oxford University Press. Retrieved from

Palmer, I., Dunford, R., & Buchanan, D.A. (2016). Managing organizational change: A multiple perspectives approach. New York: McGraw Hill

Weidner, R., Barrett, M., Oborn, E. (2017). Academy of Management Journal. Business Source Complete. Vol. 60, Issue 3. Retrieved from

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