Sunday, 12 October 2008

New independent book review - Viral Change (2nd Edition).

New independent book review - Viral Change (2nd Edition). The alternative to slow, painful and unsuccessful management of change in organisations By Leandro Herrero; Meetingminds; ISBN 9781905776054; 402 pages; ₤ 19.95

Three quarters of all change initiatives in organizations fail. Are we missing something? Leandro Herrero turns common views about change upside down. He calls his approach ‘viral change’ and combines mechanisms from the behavioural sciences with recent insights from social sciences and the network theory. New ideas, processes, behaviours and changes are more easily spread through an organization when spread like a viral infection. Viral Change deals with this ‘infectious behaviour’, which first spreads slowly until it reaches a tipping point. Then, the new behaviour quickly becomes the norm. And it only takes a few minor behavioural changes in a limited number of people in a network. Four principles form the basis for infectious change: the only real change is behavioural change; behaviour changes the culture of an organization (and not the other way around); organizational and cultural change is not a long-term issue; and it only takes a few key items to focus the energy.

In the first part of his book, Herrero shows which persistent beliefs about change management leaders and consultants cling to, why he thinks many changes fail and why Viral Change is such an attractive alternative. To date, a lot of knowledge has been gathered about organizational life. And this knowledge helps to discuss and analyze conventional and traditional perspectives on how the organization works. Next, the author brings all insights together and stresses the differences between the traditional point of view and his viral approach. In summary, the first part contains theory for the pragmatists, because, all too often, they are too eager to grab ready-made solutions off the shelf without really understanding how organizations really function. These pragmatists really need to mull over one more time all that is known about organizational life today.

Part two focuses on practice for people who like to lose themselves in concepts and theories, as they could really use some action. Here, Herrero builds his viral approach around 4 components: language, new behaviour, creating tipping points and rules and routines. While in the first half of the book the author is stimulating, ironic and provocative, here he becomes more serious. His Viral Change-approach is developed in great detail. And it quickly becomes clear that this is definitely not a new trick for one-minute-managers. Organizational structure and big top-down change initiatives (and the communication circuses that go with them) become a thing of the past if the methodology is strictly followed. New behaviour is determined and applied by one or more groups of ‘change champions’ to important bottlenecks in the social network that forms the organization. The snowball of behavioural change is rolled around and around by the organization until it gathers such momentum that a tipping point is created and the new behaviour becomes the norm unexpectedly fast. Suddenly, culture change has arrived, and within six months!

This is a gem of a book for (change)managers and one that people in communication should definitely read, as the traditional linear communication plan can be thrown out. So these communication managers need to find a new role. How? Well, you can read that for yourself.

Nico Jong
The Netherlands

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