Stage 6.5  Passing on the Process

Installing the Change Function in an Organization

Overview of how transfer works

The first project represents a new system unto itself, albeit a very temporary system, surviving on the margins. As a system it has at least four distinct properties:

  • an authority, usually very circumscribed, which provides legitimacy on a temporary basis to proceed with some kind of change effort;
  • a set of resources or resource commitments from the larger system or from some outside source;
  • a set of roles with persons designated to fill those roles; the roles represent sets of activities or functions that are required to complete the change tasks and sub-tasks; and
  • a set of connectors or an integration scheme which represents how the roles go together, how resources are distributed, and how the roles relate to each other and to the larger system it is trying to assist.

When the individual project ends, all these elements are under threat of extinction. If the project is generally deemed a failure this may well happen, but if any of the interested parties believe that it should be continued or that change activities somehow based on this activity should continue, then they will begin to direct their efforts toward reconstituting these elements, first for a second round, then for subsequent rounds, and eventually, perhaps, for a fully on-going process which is now internal to the larger system and in every sense an inseparable part of that system.

Full transfer of the change function, if it happens at all, only happens gradually, through a series of developments, which could be called "stages." These stages are similar in many ways to the stages of acceptance of innovations described throughout the Guide, especially in Stage 0 and Stage 5; but to say that there are identifiable "stages" is not to deny that there are also likely to be fits and starts and random discontinuities which may sometimes push the process forward unexpectedly and other times bring it to a screeching halt. It is never certain and it is very difficult to plan or orchestrate. Nevertheless, some thought to how it might be moved forward is worth the effort, so with that caveat about unpredictability, which applies to the whole change process, of course, let us move on to consider how the originating change agent might assist in the internalization of the change function.

Some authors have likened this acceptance process to the stages of socialization that individuals of all cultures must go through to be accepted as adults.

 Another way of looking at it is the Lewinian paradigm of "unfreezing," "moving," and "refreezing". If an innovation is going to become a real and lasting part of the system going forward,  each of the four necessary ingredients identified above will have to be given more substance and more permanence. In other words, there has to be:

6.5.1 an ongoing authority or sanction to change;

6.5.2 credible commitments to provide resources on a continuing basis;

6.5.3 acceptance by the larger system of the new change agent roles; and

6.5.4 an acceptance of the schema of interconnections that helps define the change subsystem and its relationship to the larger system

Tap the numbers to expose a deeper discussion of each.



"Many educational approaches to change in the past have been directed at a single change. This tends to result in thinking of change as product introduction rather than as a process of adaptation. This approach is dysfunctional in any long term view since it tends to lead to an attitude of ‘we innovated last year."   Howsam 

"Following any important change comes a period during which the new equilibrium is being stabilized. Yet that condition, too, is only temporary. The organization that has accepted an innovation may need a breathing spell in which to consolidate what it has learned. But if the organization is geared for continued growth, its members will value forward-moving change as a recurrent and desirable phenomenon. From the plateau on which equilibrium is regained, the cycle of change can be launched again." Watson & Glaser