The Story So Far

The Story So Far

As CHANGEGUILD hits the one-year anniversary of helping individuals, teams, and organizations navigate change, here's the backstory of CHANGEGUILD founder Dan Olson, a recap of the first year of business, and some exciting plans for the future!

Schedule Update

FYI: We will be out of the office next Friday.

#SquadGoals #StarWars #MayTheForceBeWithYou #LastJedi


Say No to VUCA

Your team members already have enough stuff to deal with. Being a good leader is knowing how to avoid being part of the problem. A common sense approach to change management may help.


Living La Vida VUCA

I dropped the VUCA acronym a week or two ago while sharing my ideas on the Change Management Review Podcast, and it seemed to strike a nerve with quite a few people. Additionally, I spent a fair chunk of time on the topic while giving a presentation on change trends in the Twin Cities recently, and given the response by that crowd, I wanted to do a follow up here to share my two cents.

VUCA is an acronym used to describe or reflect the volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity of general conditions and situations (or, as The Harvard Business Review paraphrases, “It’s crazy out there!”). In other words, Volatility points to the speed and turbulence of change, Uncertainty means that outcomes - even from familiar actions - are less predictable, Complexity indicates the vastness of interdependencies in globally connected economies and societies, and Ambiguity refers to the multitude of options and potential outcomes resulting from them. Ultimately, it means that there are no simple binary choices, consequences are unpredictable, and you can’t predict the future based on past results (sounds like the 2016 election, no?).

First used by the military in strategic planning, the term went mainstream when businesses caught on to the idea in the ‘90’s. Now it has been appropriated by neuroscience crowd, and that’s really good news from a change management point of view, especially to help leaders and individuals understand:

  • How behavior originates in the brain (and how to hack those behaviors)
  • That change (and prolonged stress) drives a significant impact on individuals. Ultimately, this impact compounds when scaled to teams, business units, and enterprises.
  • The immediate need to increase our resiliency in order to live in a VUCA world

It may be cliched to say, but the pace of change continues to accelerate, and I see many people simply stop trying to keep up. Resistance to change within organizations has changed as well. I now look back fondly on the days when change resistance was marked by people keeping their heads down with the “this too shall pass” mindset. Now people are overtly hostile to initiatives and sabotaging projects by hoarding information or sowing seeds of discontent. In the podcast, I called this the ‘Game of Thrones’ effect - the fact that you now need to play politics against hostile factions and make risky alliances to overcome them.

I’ve been able to leverage the VUCA concept to teach people that a new mindset is needed to work in today’s business environment and offset some of these resistance behaviors. Here are a few pragmatic tips I’ve observed that help build resilience in leaders and minimizes VUCA chaos:

  1. Learn to live outside your comfort zone. Some experts state that the VUCA world is not a solvable puzzle and that it is an environment we will always be forced to work within. If that is true, try to build new habits and patterns that will allow you to bounce back from setbacks quickly. Seek out different points of view, ask more questions, challenge and debate, and look for new inspiration throughout. 
  2. Be agile. Perhaps this is how you operationalize living outside your comfort zone: find ways to test and fail fast. Because there is no clear path forward in a VUCA world, you must adapt your strategies quickly and with real-time information. Whether you leverage agile with a capital A (as in the official Agile methodology), or lowercase a (as in agile meaning you can move quickly and easily), find ways to divide your work into smaller units, assess success or failure rapidly, and adapt accordingly.
  3. Lead with transparency. People worry about their influence, status, and jobs now more than ever. As a leader, create a stable refuge for your team by detailing clear expectations and governance. If you leverage an agile process internally, define what good looks like, what failure is tolerated, and how to cycle through it. Over-communicate and ensure that feedback loops are in place so that there is good engagement, and you can tell when stress starts to build.

In my opinion, how individuals, teams, or companies respond to a VUCA world is perhaps the most critical skill set to cultivate and may be the most important value proposition in the marketplace. CHANGEGUILD seeks to help individuals and organizations increase their resiliency to combat the chaos VUCA creates and has more strategies and tactics to share. Look for more ideas and content in this blog and upcoming podcasts, or through our consulting services.

Change Management In Today’s VUCA World

Warning: Living in a VUCA world can cause headaches, project delays, upset stomach, cost overruns, shortness of breath, a lack of engagement, anxiety, rework, retraining and numbness. If your VUCA symptoms last more than four hours, consult your change management practitioner.

Warning: Living in a VUCA world can cause headaches, project delays, upset stomach, cost overruns, shortness of breath, a lack of engagement, anxiety, rework, retraining and numbness. If your VUCA symptoms last more than four hours, consult your change management practitioner.

CHANGEGUILD's Dan Olson was recently interviewed by Theresa Moulton on her Change Management Review Podcast. In case you missed it, you can find it here, or you can listen to it below.

Theresa is a leader in the change management profession globally, and her website is an excellent resource for all levels of change management skill. Here's a partial list of questions she asked Dan:

  1. How did you get into the field of change management?
  2. What topic or topics do you think are most relevant to change management professionals today?
  3. Do companies really have a full view of all the projects and changes that are going on?
  4. Why do you think that a change management professional should know about the future of change management?
  5. What is it about Agile that you think is most important for change management professionals and why?
  6. What practices have you seen in Change Management that just flat-out don’t work anymore?
  7. If you could give one piece of advice to a newcomer to the change management field, what would it be?
I would say that the very autocratic top-down approaches are the biggest thing I see falling flat. There is often that conversation about, “Well, I don’t want to spend money on Change. That’s the Kumbaya touchy-feely stuff. The change must happen. We have to deploy this ERP project.” From a risk mitigation point of view, that shove-change-down-peoples’-throats mentality just is too costly. People are so unsettled and scared about the future in general as it is.

The other thing I would say is an overdependence on using a pencil-whip Change methodology. You must learn to be nimble and use what’s in the system – to be clever and overt, or covert. depending upon the moment and what the client needs.
— Dan Olson on what doesn't work in Change Management

Good Luck

We have a very particular set of skills that help businesses build their leadership, resilience, & problem-solving skills to live in a #VUCA world.

Back in the studio

Almost done with the next Change Illuminati Podcast! Stay tuned...

Presentation Prep

My co-worker Bob Cat reviews the storyboard for a presentation I am giving later this month. #takeyourcattoworkday #orgchange #leadership


We've restocked on fan-favorite CHANGEGUILD stickers and magnets! The next time you see a Guild Member, ask for one!


We're looking at new business card templates.

Get Smart

These are exciting times for #ChangeManagement practitioners as certification from @acmpglobal & @Prosci help build credibility & reach.

What are we reading?

We're rereading @ChangeAgent100's Practicing OD: Leading Transformation & Change (Go buy it now at There's an exceptionally good article on scorecarding change by friends Scott Ross and Tim Creasey.

Very Punny

So, a colleague asked for some strategic change management help constructing a model of the enterprise. This is what I sent back.