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Explore how to implement sustainable change by identifying and utilizing these 5 key elements of change as shown on the Infographic.  Miss one of these 5 key elements from the onset of change and your change efforts could fail in a spectacular way.

Sustainable Change - What Happens if an Element is Missing

By Catherine Adenle

Knowing how to implement sustainable change is vital because of all the moving parts involved in change execution.

Centuries ago, Niccolo Machiavelli, the Italian Renaissance historian and philosopher implied that there is nothing more difficult to undertake than to initiate and complete sustainable change. That is just as true for organizations today as it was five hundred years ago.

“There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.” – Niccolo Machiavelli

The key elements of how to implement sustainable change that’s equally successful start with organization leaders. They need to build an organizational architecture that integrates all these elements into continuous organizational change.

5 Key Elements of Sustainable Change

As well as managing people’s aspect of change and any resistance to change, when leaders in organizations introduce change, there are 5 crucial elements for them to also consider. These 5 elements represent the lifeblood of how to implement sustainable change.

The 5 elements of how to implement sustainable change are:

  1. Vision
  2. Motivation
  3. Knowledge
  4. Action Plan
  5. Resources

As shown on the Infographic, if an organization misses one of these 5 key elements, there will be a consequence. Attention needs to be given to all these 5 crucial elements. Recognizing and knowing how to manage possible consequences if an aspect of these 5 elements is missing is also vital.


Real change will not take place until leaders have a clear vision of the change they are trying to implement. As they need to first drive commitment through their organizations to allow for new behaviour, not having a vision of the change they want to sell will not allow for a good foundational standing of the change.

Vision - How to implement sustainable change

If there is a lack of change vision, there will be confusion!  Employees look at the bigger picture and visualize the possibilities. Their positive attitude toward change is based on this broader awareness, their specific industry and their competitive position in it, and the trust in their organization’s leadership. A well-crafted vision will make them feel positive about the organization’s future. In turn, this vision will encourage them to trust the change and support it.


Lack of motivation in organizations results in a slow pace of change. Having a great vision of change is not enough when it comes to knowing how to implement sustainable change. Just as vision is critical, a motivated workforce also translates to change buy-in.

Involving employees in the planning and execution of change increases the pace of transition through the change curve to new beginnings. An engaged workforce will minimize resistance.

“A business has to be involving, it has to be fun, and it has to exercise your creative instincts. Good people are not just crucial to a business. They are the business.” – Richard Branson

Leaders in organizations should make it a point of duty to always seek to engage, communicate, include and involve employees during change.  Having real conversations, walking the talk, leading by example, empowering and addressing concerns raised will help employees to deal with any change better. Leaders need to clear the fog of uncertainty and allow people to contribute to the change process.

Motivation - 5 Key Elements of Sustainable Change.png

Sustainable and successful change must not be imposed from the top. Changes that are “top-down” driven are often viewed as draconian. When the same changes emerge from group discussions and participation, they get far less resistance. James O’Toole points out in his book, Leading Change, that people resist change due to the fundamental human objection to having the will of others imposed upon them.

People buy into any change they help design or create, and they resist being told what to do. Any change implementation ought to include a motivational component like promotion, pay increase, new responsibilities, linking rewards to performance etc.

Motivating employees can lead to increased productivity and allow an organization to achieve higher levels of output. Motivation is generally what energizes, maintains, and controls behaviour.

Salary is often not enough motivation to keep employees working for an organization, as it’s not always enough to push them to fulfil their full potential and be open to change. Motivated employees will retain a high level of innovation while producing higher-quality work at a higher level of efficiency.

Change is a fact of life in organizations and communities. When considering any type of major change in an organization, the people aspect of the change must not be neglected. Why? Change involves people to make a change and make change happen. As an organization, while your competition can copy virtually every other advantage you have, they cannot copy your people or the results they achieve for your organization.

Change means new ways of working, restructuring, reorganization, streamlining, new products, new systems, new services, merging, downsizing etc. Hence change can also mean layoffs, reassignments, transfers, or cause other impacts for employees.

“Organizations don’t change, people do!”

See 20 Effective Ways to Involve and Support Employees During Change


If there’s a lack of knowledge during change, there will be anxiety. Making use of the knowledge available in an organization is an equally important part of how to plan and implement sustainable change. Knowing what the current situation is and the change that needs to happen are important factors to consider.

Knowledge - 5 Key Elements of Sustainable Change.jpg

In addition, knowing the facts, figures, projections, products, services offered, what’s in the change for employees, what customers should expect, what’s in it for different stakeholders and what the future state will look like for everyone and the organization are vital. These cannot be made up, hence the importance of knowledge in how to implement sustainable change.

Action Plan

All of these elements – vision, motivation and knowledge will allow for a solid action plan. If there’s no action plan, there is no change! An action plan is required to allow for successful change implementation. Individuals and leaders must be responsible for making sure that each change strategy or initiative comes to fruition.

Action plan - 5 Key Elements of Sustainable Change.jpg

Part of how to implement sustainable change is adding future dates to each operational item like key results and milestones, forming a communications plan and allocating resources. The action plan should answer the five W’s (What, Why, Who, When, Where) and one H (How). Part of the action plan is utilizing a useful tool, ‘TROPICS’ which will help to anticipate different reactions and counter potential resistance. It allows one to get a feel for the nature of a particular change and plan an appropriate strategy:

T: Time scales – Defined? Is change implementation short or long term?

R: Resources – What will be needed for the change?

O: Objectives – Are these quantifiable or not? How could these be explained clearly?

P: Perceptions – Does everyone see this issue the same way?

I: Interest – Who has an ‘interest’ in making change happen and who may want to keep things the same?

C: Control – Who holds the power?

S: Source – Who is driving this proposal, internal or external source?


A major element of how to implement sustainable change is allocating resources to change. Lack of resources translates to frustration that can easily derail change.

Resources - How to Implement Sustainable Change

If a change effort is going to succeed, then the right resources need to be aligned in order to make change success possible. That means that people, processes, systems, finances, training, and operations need to be realigned so that an organization has the right people in the right place with the right resources and the right capacity to make change effort optimally successful and sustainable. If any of those items are misaligned, the probability of initiating and completing a successful change effort will significantly decrease. No sustainable change can take place without resources!

What Causes a Change Process to Fail?

Once new behaviour is embedded (through identifying these 5 key elements) into the daily course of work, most stakeholders will be able to emotionally identify with any change as it will spark the intrinsic motivation in them to make the change a reality.

See 20 Rules of Successful Change Management in Organizations

While recognizing employees reactions to change, the next thing is determining that the planning and implementation of appropriate strategies to manage these 5 key elements of how to implement sustainable change as it is the responsibility and priority of the organization.

If well managed, these 5 elements promote sustainability, productivity and employees’ wellness and all the 5 elements of change should be in place in an organization before significant changes occur.

Now that you have explored the Infographic and this article on how to implement sustainable change, what else can you add? Let’s hear from you. Add your comments below.

*The Managing Complex Change model used as the basis of information for Infographic was copyrighted by Dr Mary Lippitt, founder and president of Enterprise Management, Ltd., in 1987.

Founder, Catherine's Career Corner. The career site empowering and inspiring ambitious candidates of all ages and professions to thrive and work smarter on their careers. Gladly helping all career-minded people worldwide to explore their career, manage change and understand how new technologies are changing and enhancing the future of work.

11 thoughts on “Implement Sustainable Change: 5 Key Elements (Infographic)

  1. I find this a really useful model to demonstrate that change is a cross functional complex deliverable, but ulitimately it is your stakeholder who you are relying upon for benefits realisation. So listening and understanding your stakeholder throughout the journey is criical to success.

    • Thank you for your insightful comment and for stopping by. Indeed, stakeholders are critical to any change in organizations. So, listening to them, including and involving them in change initiatives is vital for change sustainability.

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