Change Team or Change Coalition

pointing WEB SMLAccording to a recent Harris Poll, over 50% of people ages 18 to 34 believe they learn more from technology than people. While this may be a blinding flash of the obvious, what does this mean for business? Unless you’ve been under a rock, you know that millennials now form the largest segment of the workforce. The real question now becomes, if the largest part of your workforce prefers technology over people, how can we build driving coalitions for change?

Team vs. Coalition

No one can drive a significant organizational change single handed. Therefore, it is wise to incorporate the help of key individuals. This group cannot be just anyone or any team. In fact, you will often hear that a “driving coalition” is best to drive change. What’s the difference?

The online dictionary Merriam Webster defines team as: “A number of persons associated together in work or activity.” The dictionary defines coalition as: “a body formed by the coalescing of originally distinct elements…a temporary alliance of distinct parties, persons, or states for joint action.” The key word in the definition for coalition is distinct. What’s the point?

The point is that when you have significant change to occur in your organization, you must put together an exceptional team to drive it through the company. In addition, this driving coalition should have around 30 members from across the organization. Right away, you can see, this is no ordinary team. What these members cannot be is average. So just who are these exceptional folks?

Coalition Members

Charging coalition members with making things happen, their talent and skills must be above average. Selection should include people with the following attributes and talent.

  • Leadership skills: Management skills will not be adequate to lead real change.
  • Organizational Credibility: People driving change need to have the respect of their coworkers and teammates. These are people who have good relationships throughout the organization. There are people at all levels who can meet this criteria. If not, you may need to seriously review your culture. Good relationships go double for the coalition as internal backbiting, gossiping, and
  • Sense of Urgency: Change needs to begin at once the vision is clear. Waiting too long to begin to drive that vision or try to drive change slowly or intermediately will not be successful.
  • Ego Strength: Of course, leaders need to be confident. However, in this scenario, they cannot be egotistical as the guiding coalition is often the unsung hero of change.
  • Diverse: The driving coalition needs to be diverse in the “usual” sense, but also in thinking and approach. Everyone brings experience, expertise, and ideas to the table.
  • Commitment: Members all need to have a strong sense of commitment otherwise some will become bored once the initial challenge has worn away, others may be too easily distracted by their own agendas, and still others can be drawn down the rabbit hole of organizational politics or even the drone for business as usual to avoid the disruption that change brings. The foundation for this commitment is a strong understanding of the change vision.

 Your guiding coalition for change must be distinct, brave, and determined to be able to withstand obstacles and challenges from both within and outside the organization.The members must have the resources and fortitude to deliver on time and be role models for the change or change will falter and recovery may not be in the cards. The team loses on this call. Sorry millennials, we need people after all.  

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Graphic credit


Ferrabee, D. (2016, February). Change Management: 5 Rules for Building a World Class Guiding Coalition. Change Management Institute
Kotter, J. (2011, May). Building the team You Need to Drive Change Forbes
Tanner, R. (May, 2018). Leading Change (Step 2) -Create the Guiding Coalitin. Management is a Journey






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