The Six Secrets of Change: What the Best Leaders Do to Help Their Organizations Survive and Thrive
Through research and initiating large-scale, significant change in public schools and university reform in England and Ontario as well as being involved in major change initiatives around the world, Michael Fullan examines what is known about successful organizational change under complex conditions by suggesting six secrets of change. This review presents an overview and analysis of Fullan’s six secrets of change and my personal assessment of the book. Introduction
In this book, Michael Fullan examines both educational and business cases along with related literature to discuss what successful leaders do to help manage change in their organizations. Fullan states that nothing in the twenty first century is more important than learning how to manage change (p. ix) and his six secrets of change reveal what it takes to increase the chances of bringing about deep meaningful and lasting change (p. viii). Fullan insist that the six secrets are not secret in the sense that they are hidden from public view but instead are secret because they are complex, hard to grasp in their deep meaning, and challenging to act in combination (p. viii). Before fully diving into the theory behind the six secrets of change, Fullan briefly defines and discusses theory in action. Fullan indicates “at their core, the best theories are solidly grounded in action and travel across public and private sector organizations; and, they apply to geographically and culturally diverse situations” (p. 1). Fullan shares “theory only” and “action only” examples and describes both as being equally dangerous. He notes that a good theory should guide your decisions and actions. Fullan cautions readers not to believe every theory that is written including advice from management books and also his six secrets of change. According to Fullan, “the world has become too complex for any one theory to have certainty. He warns to never take any advice you read at face value (including advice from successful organizations and his own work) because there can never be a blueprint or silver bullet” (p. 5). Readers should instead “go deep to understand the meaning behind the advice, and try to look for arguments and evidence behind it” (p. 17).
Chapters One through Six go into full detail of Fullan’s six secrets of change which include the following: 1. Love Your Employees, 2. Connect Peers with Purpose, 3. Capacity Building Prevails, 4. Learning is Work, 5. Transparency Rules, and 6. Systems Learn. Secret #1: Love Your Employees. Fullan refers to the first secret as the “foundation secret” and believes that “loving and investing in your employees in relation to high quality purpose is the bedrock of success” (p. 36). Fullan includes customers and stakeholders equally in relation to employees in this secret. Fullan contends that organizations love employees by “creating conditions for them to succeed, helping them find meaning, increased skill development and personal satisfaction in making contributions that simultaneously fulfill their own goals and the goals of the organization” (p. 25). Fullan notes that “companies that do not understand Secret One do not prosper as much as those that do” (p. 27) and finds evidence in Firms of Endearment – FOE (Sisodia, Wolfe, & Sheth, 2007), whose authors “claim that no stakeholder is more important than another” (p. 26). FOEs consists of twenty eight companies (Ex: Amazon, BMW, Johnson & Johnson, Toyota to name a few) that met their “humanistic performance” selection criteria by paying equal attention to all stakeholders. They also provided higher employee wages, better compensation while having lower over labor costs by having less turnover, and greater productivity. Fullan notes that Secret One concerns the involvement of all...
References: Fullan, M. (2008). Six secrets of change: What the best leaders do to help their organizations survive and thrive. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Pfeffer, J. & Sutton, R.I. (2006). Hard facts, dangerous half truths and total nonsense: Profiting from evidence-based management. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.
Sisodia, R., Wolfe, D., & Sheth, J. (2007). Firms of endearment: How world class companies profit from passion and purpose. New Jersey: Wharton School Publishing.
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