What Is Your Change Thesis?

by  Jon Mertz  |  Change Management
What Is Your Change Thesis? post image

Change this. Change that. Don’t change this. Don’t change that. Have you ever been in workplaces where change changes every day?

What makes it worse is when the constant changing directions comes from the same person. One day, they are driving Change A. The next day, they are driving Change B. Wake-up again, and we are back to Change A.

Workplace whiplash happens, and no one benefits. Besides this, the direction remains unset and the problem unsolved.

Cultures that embrace circular changes are unhealthy. Some may argue that this is the world we live in. Change is constant. Although there is truth here, real change can only happen when you select a direction or solution and then give it time to develop. Shifting positions constantly does not address marketplace or industry changes.

To Drive Real Change, Develop A Change Thesis

A change thesis is a statement on what the key working assumptions are based on significant facts. Given the key assumptions, the change thesis states the required direction and plans to achieve success. The change thesis must be agreed to by key leaders within a business or organization.

A change thesis should not be complex or long. An elegant change thesis is simple in facts and powerful in resulting direction. In other words, when read, people nod their heads in agreement. The change thesis passes a common sense test.

A Solid Change Thesis Is Thoughtful, Concise, Clear, Timely & Actionable

Thoughtful – Some research and analysis needs to be done in order to understand why the change needs to occur and what change needs to happen. There has to be a solid foundation for the change. We can have opinions about what the change should be, but we cannot just base our opinions purely on past experience or gut-feel. At some point a decision is required. However, there needs to be a solid, well thought-out basis for it. This isn’t over-analysis. This isn’t getting stuck. This is about thinking through a situation or scenario and ensuring you have made the most informed decision possible about what change to make.

Concise – Keep it short and meaningful.

Clear – Concise and clear go hand-in-hand. You can be concise yet unclear. Do both. Clarity rallies others to understand the purpose of the change. With clarity, team members can identify ways to change their work and habits to pursue the new direction. To be clear, use words to define and declare. A visual image of what the change looks like can help too.

Timely – Better late than never is never a really good answer. You can be late for the necessary change but you may be too late, losing all credibility or squandering your market position. A change thesis needs to have a strong element of timeliness. Timeliness makes the change relevant and serves as a rallying point.

Actionable – All words and no action get you nowhere. All words and no action on your part snowballs into others doing the same. A static culture happens. A declining business happens. The change thesis must be actionable. A change thesis needs to be tangible so teams can grasp what they could or need to do next. Most of all, the change needs to inspire action and create a cohesive culture ready to perform.

Change Is Not An Excuse For Poor Plans, Change Requires A Thesis

Change is all around. Grab on to the relevant changes and develop a thesis on what is important and how to navigate it. Change is too important to waste. Make your change meaningful and successful.

What other elements should a change thesis contain?

About The Author

Articles By jon-mertz
Jon Mertz is one of the Top 100 Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business and author of Activate Leadership: Aspen Truths to Empower Millennial Leaders. At Thin Difference, Jon writes and facilitates a conversation on how to empower, challenge, and guide the next generation of leaders.  »  View Profile

What People Are Saying

John Smith  |  01 Dec 2014  |  Reply

Hi, Jon

This is awfully good stuff here:)

I have read thousands of about change and change management, but little or none of it focuses on the “meta” aspect of change. The concept of actually creating and a dopting a formal statement about change itself strikes me as a very good idea, since we are at the reality of constant change.

I hope this idea spreads and I’ll do what I can to help it in front of people.

Thanks for a thoughtful and useful article:)


Jon Mertz  |  02 Dec 2014  |  Reply


Thank you for your feedback and comments. Very grateful.

For me, to make real change really happen, it has to be defined well and communicated clearly. Leaders need to deliver a rallying point so time to define the reason for the change is vital.

Appreciate it!


Paula Kiger (Admin)  |  03 Dec 2014  |  Reply

I think this is implied but a change thesis should be grounded in the organization’s values. If change takes everyone away from those, there’s a different set of issues that need to be addressed before change can be addressed.

Jon Mertz  |  04 Dec 2014  |  Reply


Yes, I believe keeping your organizational values through the change is important; it is a matter of integrity. More importantly, it is a matter of a higher purpose of what the organization and business is about, rather than just a self-centered view.

Great point. Thanks!


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