My Top 5 Books on Change

Having recently joined Greenlight as a Graduate Consultant, I am often asked why I wanted to become a change manager. My initial interest was sparked by modules in my degree, as we regularly discussed the impact of organisational change. However, we also live in a world of rapid technological change and globalisation. Businesses are regularly changing in order to keep up, but for this change to become meaningful it has to become embedded in everyday life, and that requires empowering people to accept change. Due to this, the role of the change manager tends to be a social one and as I enjoy interacting with people, it was a perfect career choice for me!

In order to help navigate people through change it is important that we periodically grow our knowledge, which is why I thought it would be useful to outline my top 5 books on change.


1. HBR’s 10 Must Reads on Change Management – Harvard Business Review

This book is a collection of articles that have been published in the Harvard Business Review. Various change related topics are discussed and each article provides great insights on what makes change efforts successful, and what can derail them. The articles vary in length, but I particularly like this book as it contains two reader-friendly devices, the ‘Idea in Brief’ and ‘Idea in Practice’ sections, which are useful for summarising key points and accessing information quickly.

Summary: My favourite article from the book is called ‘Tipping Point Leadership’. It discusses the leadership style of New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, and how he implemented substantial and widespread change into the NYPD.


2. Our Iceberg is Melting – John Kotter

Next is Our Iceberg is Melting, which is based on John Kotter’s renowned 8 step change process. These 8 steps are put into context through a short story based on a penguin colony in Antarctica who realise that their iceberg home and survival is at risk. This book is great for providing some understanding on how to manage stakeholders, as the penguin characters represent roles played by people in times of change, such as ‘Nono’, the change resister, and the Professor who is very theoretical and analyses everything.

Summary: Resistance to change has the potential to derail change initiatives; Kotter highlights the various forms of opposition and resistance that can build up, and how best to overcome them.


3. Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard – Chip Heath and Dan Heath

If you read my previous blog you will be aware that change resistance has neuroscientific roots. Switch offers an analysis of the barriers to change and explains that if we understand how our minds function, shortcuts to switches in behaviour can be unlocked. Interestingly, it has been discovered that our minds are ruled by two different systems, the rational mind and the emotional mind, which compete with one another. The rational mind wants to change something; whereas the emotional mind finds comfort in the existing routine, which can lead to change resistance.

Summary: Ultimately successful change comes down to modifying stakeholders’ behaviours, and this book provides useful leadership tips on how to do this whilst reducing change resistance.


4. Change Friendly Leadership: How to Transform Good Intentions into Great Performance – Roger Dean Duncan and Stephen M.R. Covey

Staying with the theme of leadership during change, in this book Dr. Robert Dean Duncan distils his decades of experience into useful hints and tips that can be used by everyone. The authors make the important point that change is often spearheaded by leaders with good intentions, but despite this, the majority of these programs will not succeed. Dr. Duncan argues that this is because humanness, friendliness and approachability are necessary elements of making change successful, but are often overlooked. If leaders can implement these elements into their relationships and collaboration with others, the authors argue that change can be easier to implement.

Summary: This book identifies that the traits of leaders are significantly important during times of change, and offers good advice on what to consider. The ‘Four Ts’ of Thinking, Talking, Trusting, and being Team Friendly are an example of this, and are easy to implement into your style.


5. Changemaking: Tactics and Resources for Managing Organisational Change – Richard Bevan

This book provides multiple resources that can be used in times of organisational change. Bevan argues that successful change involves the following: listen to the stakeholders, learn about the issues, lead with clarity and involvement, align systems, communicate relentlessly, follow-up and course-correct. Then consider who will be most affected; ask questions and listen carefully to the responses. These steps provide a good starting point for achieving successful organisational change, as they can be tailored to any type and size of business, small or large.

Summary: Changemaking is particularly useful as it provides examples of workable tools such as checklists, suggested talking points and templates that Bevan has used successfully over the years with his clients to implement change.


Overall, I would have to say my favourite book here is Switch, as I have an interest in the way our minds work and the psychological reasons for change resistance. Moreover, the authors tips on how to modify behaviours to bring about change is invaluable.

Lastly, as I mentioned at the start it is important to periodically grow our knowledge, so I would be interested to hear about your favourite change book or article.