Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Trends in Change Leadership: A Summary of 20 Years of Change in the Workplace

Discovery Learning, Inc. launched Change Style Indicator™ in 1994 and it has been in constant use by leadership and organizational development professionals ever since. Change Style Indicator™ (CSI) is an assessment instrument designed to measure an individual’s preferred style in approaching change and dealing with situations involving change. The assessment is research based and has been thoroughly validated with over 180,000 participants to date.

The following report looks at the compiled normative data through five different filters. For this initial report, Discovery Learning, Inc. chose to review Change Style Indicator™ scores by gender, age, organizational level, industry and over time. Our hope is that change managers as well as organizational and leadership development professionals can use this information to gain new insights into their organizations and accelerate adoption of change initiatives. This information is the first of its kind and we are very excited to share it with our community of training and development professionals. The following is an abbreviated summary of our findings. Click here to read the full report including analysis of trends in the data.


One of the most striking insights to come out of the Change Style Indicator™ normative data review was the trend associated with different age groups. We see a distinct trend where groups both entering and exiting the workforce tend to be more cautious when it comes to embracing organizational change. People in the 20-29 age group are the most cautious when it comes to organizational change. Some 9% more of the 20-29 population score as conservers than the group with the lowest conserver score, which is the 40-49 age range.


The differences in change style tendencies between men and women was one of the most striking findings of the data analysis. Here we see approximately 9% more women identifying as conservers than men. One of the primary strengths of conservers in the Change Style Indicator spectrum is their ability to successfully execute and implement projects and assignments. Senior managers who are building teams should be asking them­selves what might be missing when forming groups without adequate representation from women. The data also seems to indicate that, on average, women may be more successful in leadership roles where execution and implementation constitute critical success factors.


Discovery Learning, Inc. looked at over 60,000 participants who identified their seniority level within their organizations. The results paint an interesting picture of how individuals respond to change across organization levels. We found that twice as many individuals scored as conservers in the super­visory level roles than did those in top/ executive roles. Also a full 15% more top level managers and executives identified with being originators versus supervisory level participants. It is important to bear in mind that this data does not reflect the success rates of conservers or originators performance in these roles. Conservers in executive roles can be as successful as their originator counterparts, but successful conservers will demonstrate a different leadership style than successful pragmatists or originators.


The industries with the lowest number of individuals identify­ing as originators include: Law firms, public health organiza­tions, government agencies, and elementary and secondary education institutions. One of the traits that these types of or­ganizations face is that they operate within a reasonably regu­lated industry. On the other end of the Change Style spectrum we find a host of industries including: health products and equipment, me­dia publishing and nonprofit agencies. None of these however score as strongly originator as the technology and software in­dustry. In all of these industries there is a strong case to be made that constant and fast paced change is integral to suc­cess.


We are able to look at how people’s preferences regarding change have shifted over time. Looking at the data in this way provided interesting insights into how the population, as represented by approximately 180,000 participants, has shifted over time. Due to the way the data is captured, the timeline begins in 2001.

What we see is a distinct trend towards higher degrees of caution associated with change initiatives. Over a 13-year time span we see an increase in the number of individuals identifying as conservers increase by 7%. At the same time we see the same 7% reduction in the number of individuals identifying as origi­nators while those identifying as pragmatist remains relatively constant.

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