Career Advice

The Science of Successful Organizational Change For Engineers
Anthony Fasano posted on January 18, 2016 |
Paul Gibbons, an expert in change management, talks about how you can implement change leadership in...

The following is a summary of Episode 95 of our podcast, The Engineering Career Coach (TECC) Podcast. You can also listen to the show through the player below, the website, or by subscribing on iTunes.

In today’s episode, Paul Gibbons, an expert in change management, talks about how you can implement change leadership in the engineering organization you work for today or the engineering project you’re currently leading.

Here are some key points:

Reasons and expertise do not by themselves add up to a successful change. Paul gives the example of their risk recommendations and cancer research.

Two factors why change doesn’t occur even when there is a known need for change: stakeholders and behavioral change.

What people like and what people feel comfortable with is not sufficient to getting a change to happen.

Resistance is strengthened by the provision of facts.

Choice architecture method – give people the liberty to choose what they want to do but steer their behavior in a way that is beneficial to them or to the organization (make it easy for people to choose the correct behavior). Paul shares the example of people in the cafeteria and 401K.

A fantastic change leader would:

  • Automatically be sharing the vision
  • Providing a big picture context of the change that makes sense to people
  • Resolving internal conflicts between departments or individuals
  • Supporting people through the difficulty of the change transition by helping them build skills or the emotional side of the change
  • Understand the sources of the resistance to change
  • Bring their piece of the organization along with the big picture

Change management can be replaced by change capable leaders who are great at getting their organization aligned with the change.

Actions engineering leaders would want to implement in a change program that are likely to increase success:

  • Think carefully how you define the problem (fixing symptoms rather than dealing with root causes)
  • Be honest of your capability to get change to happen particularly the human side of change
  • Think of how you build change agility
  • Think early about stakeholders (think who’s going to be involved and get them involved early on)

Guidelines for the way we think about change:

  • Involve people early to make them feel they are part of the solution
  • Think about how the change looks from their point of view (empathy)

Frequently, the small risks are where the biggest effects are.

Cognitive biases:

  • Zero risk bias – Pretending that a small risk is a zero risk
  • Sampling risk bias – Draw inferences from small samples
  • Confirmation bias – We want to believe that we’re right and try to look for evidence that it is working

What actions should you take to become a change capable engineering leader?

Anthony Fasano, PE, author of Engineer Your Own Success, found success as an engineer at a very early age and now writes and podcasts to help other engineers do the same. Visit Anthony’s website at to access all of the free engineering career resources he has created to help engineers succeed.

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