How to Make Change Stick

Ever notice how people and organizations make a change, but it doesn’t last? There are actually invisible forces at work that can either help or hinder their success. Let’s explore what those forces are and how to work with them to create change that sticks.

We’ll start by looking at a 4-Quadrant Change Model that reveals what might actually be going on. It’s a simplified version of Ken Wilber’s Four Quadrants:

Organizational Change Four Quadrant Model

As you can see, the four quadrants are:

  • Quadrant 1: Being (Inner/I)
  • Quadrant 2: Culture (Inner/We)
  • Quadrant 3: Behavior (Outer/I)
  • Quadrant 4: Organization (Outer/We)

If we imagine the Inner/I as our Being (personal values, beliefs, and meanings), and the Outer/I as our Behavior (observable skills, competencies, and abilities), you can quickly see how our personal inner world, although invisible, can have a huge influence on our external performance.

In organizations, the Inner/We is our Culture (core values, unspoken expectations, norms, and morale). And the Outer/We is the external face and infrastructure of the Organization (programs, policies, procedures and systems).

Bottom Line: The Inner realms influence the Outer realms both individually and organizationally. To make change stick, you have to address the Inner and Outer lives of the organization and its people.


Here’s a quick, 90-second exercise to help you better understand how the 4-Quadrant Change Model can be applied to real life.

1. Draw a 4-Quadrant Change Model like this:

four quadrant change model

2. Place each of the items below into the Quadrant where you think they fit:

• Advertising and marketing
• Benefits and pay
• Business processes
• Decision-making
• Delivering a product/service
• Designing a product/service
• Earning a profit
• Employee assistance program
• Employee training
• Hiring people
• Meetings
• Mission of the organization
• Organizational culture
• Personal beliefs
• Policy manuals

Don’t scroll down until you’re done.

Ok, here’s what your completed 4-Quadrant Change Model might look like:

Four quadrant change model

While yours may not look exactly like mine, you’ll notice that most of the elements in a business fit in the Outer/We Quadrant. However, if I were to ask you which Quadrants have the greatest influence on the items in the Outer/We Quadrant, it becomes more interesting.

For example, benefits and pay might be influenced by how a CEO or Human Resources VP views and values people (Inner/I Quadrant). Delivery of products and services may be heavily influenced by the value the culture places on quality vs. quantity (Inner/We Quadrant).

I’m sure you’re beginning to see how the invisible Inner Quadrants can influence the Outer Quadrants. The most important thing to notice is that you’ve started to think about how to create change in your organization in a whole new way.


Imagine you are a project manager in charge of getting your organization to use the intranet software, SharePoint.

Because your organization wastes so much time trying to find documents, having an easy way for everyone to access them at any time sounds amazing. You’re so excited to fix this huge problem, and it looks like all it will take is a little employee training.

You work with the tech experts to get SharePoint installed and ready to go. You even populate it with some documents to show everyone how it works. The entire staff goes through the training. Afterwards, you send out an email to say that SharePoint is up and running and ready to go. Woo hoo!

You excitedly wait for the high praise about how this is so awesome and you are ready to answer the inevitable question, “Why did it take us so long?”

Buuuut . . .

The praise never comes because NOBODY is using SharePoint.


Well, this is where you pull out your 4-Quadrant Change Model. In order for change to stick, change has to happen in all four quadrants.

To figure out why no one is using SharePoint, you need to look at what in each Quadrant may be helping and hindering your organization’s change.

Are you ready?

You are about to make the invisible forces that stop change visible.

Four quadrant change model

Quadrant 3 (Outer/I): You held a training and everyone went (hooray!), but then they went away and no one used the software (hmmm).
Quadrant 4 (Outer/We): You rocked Quadrant 4. You found and installed a really cool system to solve a longtime organizational problem.
Quadrant 2 (Inner/We): Uh oh. Quadrant 2 is blank
Quadrant 1 (Inner/I): And so is Quadrant 1.

Guess what?

You are now zeroing in on where the problem might be. You excelled in Quadrant 4 (programs, policies, procedures and systems), and did well delivering the tools and training in Quadrant 3, which should have translated into new skills, competencies, and abilities, but the behavior change didn’t happen. You need to explore what is happening in Quadrant 1 (personal values, beliefs, and meanings), and Quadrant 2 (core values, unspoken expectations, norms, and morale) that may have hindered the staff from adopting the new SharePoint system.

Now that you’ve identified the root of the problem, you can make a list of next actions:

1. Redesign and redeliver the training and this time, be sure to address how Quadrants 1 and 2 influence Quadrant 3.
2. Use a focus group of staff members to better understand what helped and hindered people from adopting SharePoint. Incorporate their feedback into the training’s redesign.
3. Share why the organization has decided to use SharePoint, and how much time and money it costs to find a document using the old methods.
4. Talk with staff about their beliefs around having organizational data in one spot.
5. Share examples of successful systems that the organization already centralizes and has gotten value from (e.g. payroll).
6. Talk with staff about how they see the new system fitting, or not fitting into the organization’s culture.
7. Address concerns head on about how the system doesn’t fit into the organizational culture.
8. Ask staff for assistance with implementing SharePoint on their team.
9. Communicate that you expect staff to begin using SharePoint and ask what they believe to be a reasonable start date.

Four Quadrant Change Model

Instead of answering the question, “Why isn’t anyone using SharePoint?” with, “We just have bad people,” you involved staff members by asking them to share individual viewpoints and cultural norms that helped, or hindered the use of the new system. By taking these steps prior to designing and delivering the training, you’ve exponentially increased the possibility of effective adoption of SharePoint across your organization.

And that, my friends, is how to make organizational change last.

Onward and keep tapping your talent!


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