The "double helix" transformation process

“Leadership model transformation is like making wine."
Managers who operate by metrics, paperwork, and numbers, might say: ‘OK, we’ve analyzed wine. It has sugar in it. It has pulp. It has yeast. It has grapes.’ So, they'd dump those ingredients in a pot, stir it, drink it, and say, ‘but this doesn’t taste like wine!’ and wonder why. It’s because real wine had to go through a process. They may have had the components right, but they overlooked the principles for transforming grapes and water into wine. Want to know how to make superb organizational wine?

First and foremost, it is important to acknowledge the nature of change.
Whenever a company changes, two dimensions of change can be observed:

  1. the organizational dimension,
  2. and the individual dimension.

Consequently, truly successful change efforts need to pay attention to the special characteristics of both of these dimensions.

Now, the problem is that in today's change initiatives, usually only one dimension of change is considered - the organizational bit. Change projects quite often assume that changing organizations is changing organizations. Full stop. Individual change, on the other hand, is mostly the subject of “soft skills” training, and coaching activities, and these are rarely linked into organizational change initiatives. They are mostly actually totally decoupled from what's really going on in the company.

So this lack of acknowledgement of the link between organizational change and individual change is why most change projects fail, either fully or partially. The Double Helix Transformation Framework, in contrast, fully considers both dimensions of profound change. And thus makes change successful.


Helix string 1: The organizational change dimension
John Kotter (HBS) presented this change management model first in a Harvard Business Review article, in 1994, and then in his groundbreaking book “Leading Change“. Since then, Kotter has elaborated on that concept, publishing books on practical cases and tools, and also, recently, a fable on change called “Our Iceberg is melting“.

Helix string 2: The individual change dimension

Consultant William Bridges published his landmark book “Managing Transitions” in 1991. His concept is based upon the observation that in order to change as a person or start something new, you have to go first through a stage of “Ending” or “unloading your baggage”, followed by a path through so-called “Neutral Zone”.


The Double Helix – when the two strings come together…

By combining one concept with the other, a completely new kind of change initiative framework emerges: One in which the two different dimensions of profound change – organizational and personal – are intertwined and inseparable. The Double Helix Framework allows for a far richer and more “realistic” perception of profound change processes.

Decide to change: The importance of how the decision is taken.

Successful change strongly depends on how the decision for change is taken. Two main aspects need to be considered:

  1. The moment in time when the decision on change is being taken.
  2. The communication that goes on until the decision.

In most change initiatives (we will call this the “traditional” approach to change, in this paper), the decision to change is taken at the very beginning of the project. It is taken even before all people relevant for the process are aware that there will be change. Most practitioners actually believe that the decision to change should be taken “as early-on as possible”, in order to “put a stick in the ground”.

But there is a huge problem with that approach. Because, if the decision is being taken before all those involved have the opportunity to influence the decision, then usually strong resistance and time-wasting political games will result.

The Double Helix Transformation Framework applies special communication techniques to involve all people relevant to the process early-on, before the decision on change is made, and to enable the organization to decide as late as possible.