Academic journal article Organization Development Journal

The Road to Commitment: Capturing the Head, Hearts and Hands of People to Effect Change

Academic journal article Organization Development Journal

The Road to Commitment: Capturing the Head, Hearts and Hands of People to Effect Change

Article excerpt


The Road to Commitment describes the phases that individuals go through as they encounter organizational change. The model helps change leaders and consultants understand the people side of organizational change. Applying the model increases the likelihood that all employees will fully commit to effecting and sustaining organizational change. This paper presents both the model description and applications for use by change leaders and consultants.


Over the past 20 years, leadership literature has recognized that leading change is one of the primary tasks of leadership (O'Toole, 1995). Despite the best efforts of leaders and others, organizations are littered with failed attempts to make major change happen. Changes that were planned often do not achieve the intended results (Kotter, 1995). And, the breakdown of change efforts is often due to failures in the human side of change versus the failure of systems or technology (Kotter & Cohen, 2002).

Typically, leadership teams may take several months to devise a strategy or identify and plan a major change effort. Then the leaders hold a series of two-hour meetings with employees to "roll out the change." While these meetings provide information about the change, they seldom result in real commitment to making sustainable change happen. This paper describes the Road to Commitment model and ways to use it to build commitment among a critical mass of people involved in any organizational change.

The Road to Commitment

The Road to Commitment is a working model of an individual journey that starts with awareness and understanding and ends at full commitment to make change happen. Each of us takes this journey for every change we are involved in. The model, as depicted in Figure 1 (on the following page), follows the premise that to be committed to change, one must be engaged in the head (understanding), the heart (belief), and the hands (action to make it happen).

The focus of this paper is to twofold:

* A description of the Road to Commitment

* Its application in organizations making major change

The three phases of the Road to Commitment are:

1. Expanding Awareness and Understanding

2. Evoking Belief

3. Building Commitment

The upper path to commitment is a path to success in making change. The paths below of Resistance or Compliance are paths to failure on the human side of change.

Moving through the three phases of the model helps avoid the mistake of trying to get employees to jump from awareness and understanding directly to commitment to a change. Another lesson from the model is that through having people participate in the planning and actions to bring about the change, they can overcome resistance and compliance and return to the Road to Commitment. We will now look in more detail at each phase of the Road to Commitment and ways to build participation to move from one phase to another.

Phase 1-Expanding Awareness and Understanding

The goal of Phase 1 is to have a critical mass of the organization comprehend the case for change. The case for change needs to begin to address the following:

* Reasons the change is necessary

* The intended results of the change

* Actions needed to effect the change

* The "What's in it for me" (WlIFM)

* Features that distinguish this attempt from previous attempts at change

Two types of questions usually arise in Phase 1 : "why" questions and "what" questions. Once peopie are aware of a change, it is natural for them to ask questions, such as, "Why this change? Why now? Why haven't we done this before? Why should I get behind this change? It didn't work last time, so why should I believe it will work this time?" These questions help each person to build his or her own understanding of the need for change, and are often misunderstood as a challenge to the leader or change agent. …

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