Category Archives: change management

The Change Journey
March 5th

The Change Journey

The Change Journey – Sean Gilligan Podcast

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about unprecedented changes in various aspects of our lives, and it’s important to understand the impact of change and how to handle it effectively. Dr. Britt Andreatta, an expert in leadership and learning, shares her insights on this topic.

One of the key issues with change is that not all change is created equal. Some changes are minor, and we can quickly adapt to them, while others are more significant and can take a lot of time to acclimate to. Dr. Andreatta suggests using a “Change Matrix” to assess the impact of change on individuals and teams. This matrix maps the amount of disruption to the time required for acclimation. By understanding how each change affects individuals, we can plan better and manage change effectively.

Leaders need to be thoughtful on how change can disrupt their teams over time

The brain’s resistance to change is also a critical factor to consider. The brain is wired for three things: survival, belonging, and becoming our best selves. Change can often trigger our survival instincts, causing us to resist it. The brain’s GPS system and habits also play a role in our response to change. It’s essential to understand how the brain works and why people react to change the way they do to manage change effectively.

Leaders play a crucial role in managing change, and they can fall into one of three categories: expedition designers, trailblazers, or guides. Each of these roles has a unique perspective on change, and they must work together to manage change effectively. 

Change is the only constant in life, and it is evident that organisations are constantly undergoing changes. However, not all changes are equal, and the effectiveness of change initiatives is not always guaranteed. In fact, research shows that 50-70% of change initiatives fail. Therefore, assessing the impact of change and understanding the brain science of resistance are critical for successful change initiatives.

Assessing the impact of change is essential as not all changes are the same, and different types of changes require varying levels of acclimation. Factors that influence the level of acclimation required include the amount of disruption, the total number of changes, and the duration of the change. To effectively manage change, organisations can use a change matrix that maps individuals’ capacity for change against the amount of change happening.

Emotions also play a significant role in the success of change initiatives. When change is announced, people often experience shock, fear, and denial, which may progress to stress, anger, frustration, depression, and confusion. Therefore, change leaders must plan how people are going to react to change and focus on the potential gains and state of hope to shorten the duration and lessen the disruption.

The brain is wired to resist change, and it is predisposed to survival, belonging, and becoming the best selves. To successfully lead change initiatives, leaders must understand the brain’s resistance to change, which is influenced by the fear, GPS, habits, and failure parts of the brain.

Change fatigue is another critical issue to consider when leading change initiatives. Research shows that 47% of senior executives experience change fatigue, which leads to disengagement, exhaustion, absenteeism, confusion, conflict, and cynicism. 

Change leaders can mitigate change fatigue by involving detractors and non-active participants, controlling the narrative, and managing resistance to change.

Effective change leadership involves three main types of leadership roles: expedition designers, trailblazers, and guides. Expedition designers have a long view of the organisation and are responsible for designing the change initiatives. Trailblazers enable change to happen by doing something before the change occurs, while guides, often managers and supervisors, lead people through the change.

Change is inevitable, and the success of change initiatives depends on the human side of change. Change leaders must understand the brain’s resistance to change, assess the impact of change, control the narrative, and manage resistance to change. Additionally, they should focus on involving all stakeholders in the change initiatives and ensuring effective handoffs between the leadership roles. Finally, to mitigate change fatigue, change leaders should focus on creating a culture of positivity, celebrating progress, and milestones, and holding people accountable for their goals.

Communication is also critical when it comes to change management. Leaders must control the narrative and involve detractors early to avoid resistance and address the concerns of non-active participants.

The pandemic has brought about significant changes, and people have been struggling to cope with the changes, leading to burnout. It’s essential to pay special attention to burnout and provide support to individuals and teams going through significant changes.

Change is a journey, and it’s important to understand the impact of change and how to handle it effectively. By understanding the science behind change and the role of leaders, we can manage change effectively, minimize resistance, and ensure a smooth transition to the new normal.

The fragility of business and the need for change

phones4u store closes

Phones4u stores close after losing key customers

Before I set up Webanywhere in 2003 I spent 5 years in the world of work following my graduation from the University of York. My first interview involved an elevator pitch. I arrived on Mark Lane just off the Headrow in Leeds for an interview with Ian Holding, the Sports Director of, one of the top 10 websites in the UK at the time. Ian had just bought a sandwich and we got chatting in the lift. Thankfully my first impressions must have been favourable and my name dropping of Andrew Gilligan (my cousin – a famous journalist) must have added some credibility – I had landed a temporary job.

TEAMtalk  football news site

TEAMtalk football news site failed to monetise it’s readership

The role started out with me working just a few days a week, which soon led to full-time employment. For six months I had no contract and worked for £5 an hour until just after Christmas, when I landed a full time contract. Whilst TEAMtalk had millions of readers, it was unable to monetise its content and after three years of service I was made redundant. I was the second person to leave the business after the HR manager. Whilst TEAMtalk had grown its staff from 50 to 500 and moved to new flashy offices in Wellington Street, it had failed to generate sufficient revenues. It was acquired firstly by UK Betting plc and then lately Sky. Just this week the TEAMtalk office in Leeds has now been shut down making it the end of an era. I still have a lot of friends from the TEAMtalk days and lots of web based skills were learnt on TEAMtalk’s watch.

My next role was with the Caudwell Group in Stoke-on-Trent. Entrepreneur John Caudwell had built up his telecoms empire to include Phones4u and Singlepoint. I was employed as a developer in a start up within Singlepoint called Wizcom which specialised in mobile commerce. John Caudwell wisely sold his business to a Private Equity group a few years ago for £1.5 billion. If you’ve read the news in the last couple of month you will have seen about the closure of Phones4u. The large telecoms players were no longer prepared to do business with them which ultimately led to Phones4u’s demise and the job losses which followed.

Egg Bank

Egg Bank was split and sold to BarclayCard and The Yorkshire Building Society

Egg Bank was my last tenure as an employee. I was hired as a contractor for the Prudential-owned internet bank based in Derby. The lucrative contract allowed me to save the cash to start my business Webanywhere and to follow my dream. Again, not too many years ago, Egg was split and sold off. Once a darling of the internet age, Egg had failed to adapt and its credit card business was sold to BarclayCard while the Yorkshire Building Society acquired Egg’s savings arm.

So what does this mean? It means that all three of the businesses which I used to work for as a young professional have since folded. TEAMtalk had failed to monetise it’s readership. Phones4u had been too reliant on a small number of large mobile phone operators and Egg had failed to adapt and change to a heavily competitive credit card market.

Businesses are indeed fragile, and the job of the leader is to challenge your staff to change and adapt. If a business does not serve its customers and their needs then you have no business. Morrison’s (and their lack of reaction to online shopping until recently) is a good recent example of how losing touch with customers can negatively impact a business. Getting back to basics and listening to your customers is what’s important.

Webanywhere’s core value is flexibility and we co-create our software with our customers to ensure we don’t fall foul of these mistakes. Businesses which get complacent, greedy, arrogant or lack energy will fail. We must be flexible to navigate head winds and avoid some of the dangerous paths ahead.

Debt and leverage make a business fragile. Webanywhere does not have any debt and is not geared up. Optionality leads to anti-fragility and with Webanywhere operating in three locations this helps us take risk out of our business. Top-down management-planning leads to fragility, which is why we prefer bottom-up management. Finally, Webanywhere has a large customer base of 4,000 customers, so rather than relying on a few large ones we can spread our risk around.

If you find this subject interesting, have a read of the following book:
Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, the bestselling author of The Black Swan and one of the foremost thinkers of our time, reveals how to thrive in an uncertain world.