Enablers and Band-Aiders in Organisational Change

Hand holding questionsMost organisations today face many issues they’d like to address. Perhaps it’s to do with a more strategic approach to planning. Or it’s about improving communication. Or maybe it’s about teamwork, leadership approaches or staff retention. It could be almost anything in the way they deliver their programs and services or the way they do business.

Whatever the issue, most people will say they’ve realised they need to do things differently. They need to change.

But whether or not a change effort is successful then depends on a number of things. And perhaps the most important is whether the organisation is prepared to embrace and support the change effort or whether it is mainly looking for a quick fix. A ‘band aid’ that will fix the issue as fast and effortlessly as possible.

Let’s call the two groups the Band Aiders and the Enablers


Thumb turned up wearing bandaidOrganisations in this group often don’t allow sufficient time beforehand to prepare their staff and others involved. This results in several barriers to be overcome before the change effort can really get under way, let alone be successful.

For example, a large-scale meeting is arranged at the start of the process. But without sufficient notice and without effective strategies to engage others in the process, key people simply aren’t there.  Or perhaps, if they do attend because they’ve been told it’s mandatory, they bring with them residual feelings of resentment or frustration because they don’t see their participation as a high priority in their busy schedules.

Lack of preparation may also mean the session facilitators are initially working with a room full of people who have no clear or shared idea of why they are there, or of what the main aim of the session might be.

So the organisation is already ‘behind the eight ball’!  Because it takes far more time and effort to overcome these issues than it would have taken to do the necessary preparation and prevent them arising in the first place.

Band Aiders are also not very good at the follow through. There’s a prevailing mindset that, by running the facilitated session or the training program or whatever, they’ve done their bit. After all, everyone should now be able to implement what they’ve planned or learned, shouldn’t they?

But with this mindset, their change efforts are likely to run aground, fizzle and fade out over time.

Certainly not a good or effective use of the time, effort and resources invested!


Thumb turned upOrganisations in this group, on the other hand, are prepared to commit sufficient time, people and resources to the whole process. Not an easy thing to do, particularly when budgets are tight. But they know they have to commit resources long term – well beyond just a series of meetings, workshops or facilitated sessions.

As a first step, Enablers allow sufficient time for the preparation stage.  For example, they work closely with consultants and facilitators (whether internal or external) to prepare for their role in the process.

They also plan well ahead with their staff and everyone who will be affected by the change. They promote and publicly support the change effort – and work to inspire and motivate others.  All those who need to be involved have clear and compelling reasons to come on board.

And that doesn’t mean involvement has simply been mandated! People’s hearts have been engaged as well as their minds – they’ve been given transparent information about the need for this initiative, and they’re already enthusiastic about its possibilities before the first group sessions or workshops take place.

Enablers also commit time and additional resources to the “follow through” – supporting, monitoring and reviewing what happens over time. They know that, for any change to be embedded in daily practice, people need much more than the initial ‘boost’ that can be provided through planning sessions, workshops or training.

Enablers therefore put in place such things as:

  • A budget allocation for follow up activities/initiatives
  • Ongoing mentoring and support for those implementing the change
  • Opportunities for reflection and follow-up sessions where people can share what they’ve learned or achieved
  • Skills training as required for those involved
  • Opportunities to share and celebrate achievements and mileposts along the way

Enablers also know when to ‘get out of the way’ as things move forward. They may lead, inspire, monitor and review – but they also create an environment where others can take the initiative, lead, be creative, experiment – and take some risks –  in moving towards clear and shared goals.

A Paradox

paradox wordleImplementing effective change is always a time-consuming and challenging process – for both Enablers and Band-Aiders.

But here’s a paradox.

From a simple bottom-line perspective, the Band Aider approach may initially seem more attractive. After all, there are no costly preparation or follow up activities required. You can simply engage a trainer, facilitator or consultant to deliver a series of workshops or training sessions to ‘fix’ the issues you’re facing, then sit back and watch people implement the required changes, right?

No. Effective change just doesn’t work that way.

Because they commit resources to preparation and follow up activities, Enablers may certainly seem at first to be taking the more costly route.

But by not putting these things in place, Band Aiders will experience along the way many false starts, periods of inactivity, fading motivation and fizzling energy. They may achieve their desired outcomes eventually – but they’ll find their change effort ultimately costs them far more than if they’d taken the Enabler path in the first place.

So in the end Enablers achieve the desired outcomes of a change effort more quickly, more cheaply and …. well, more “effortlessly”!

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