Randy Pennington's

Make Change Work
Staying Nimble, Relevant,
and Engaged in a World
of Constant Change


"The difference between winning and losing is how the men and women of our company view change as it comes at them."Jack Welch, former chief executive officer of General Electric

Another book about change? Really? The thousands of other books on the subject aren’t enough?
I’m with you.

My iceberg has moved. My cheese has melted, and I don’t need to hear another message that changes are coming and I need to get on board.

And yet we are confronted with this reality: most of our efforts to make change work don’t work as well as we had hoped … or even at all.

Need proof?

Research published by John Kotter1 in 1995 stated that 70 percent of change efforts fail to achieve their desired goal. Since that time, there has been an explosion in books, articles, training videos, seminars, and speeches about change.

So what impact did we achieve from all of our focus on change?

In 2013, 18 years after Kotter’s study, every indication is that the vast majority of change efforts—as high as 70 percent by some reports—fail to achieve their desired goal.

That’s right. There has been basically a whopping 0 percent improvement in our collective ability to effectively initiate and implement change.

We can now conclude that all of our attention and focus on change hasn’t really changed our ability to successfully implement change in organizations.

But you knew that already. Think of all the changes you have experienced within the organizations for which you have worked. Don’t you think we would be better at it by now?


My favorite Far Side comic of all time features a dinosaur standing behind a lectern in front of room of other dinosaurs. The caption reads, “The picture is pretty bleak, gentlemen. The world’s climate is changing, the mammals are taking over, and we all have a brain about the size of a walnut.”
Relentless competition, advancing technology, and the struggle to remain relevant have made the ability to change a matter of survival for some industries and professions.

There is another story to be told, however. The ability to make change work is a strategic advantage.

Companies that can quickly identify, anticipate, and adapt to changing customer needs and wants are the winners in a world where the competitive landscape changes overnight. Leaders with the ability to build a nimble team that is engaged and focused on continually getting better will see their opportunities expand.

You can’t do what you need to do and be what you need to be as a leader unless you can make change work.


You are reading this book for one of three reasons:

  1. You saw the title and were intrigued. You may be struggling with a change that needs to be made right now. You know that your team, department, and company need to be better at making change work if you hope to remain relevant and competitive in the marketplace. You often feel overwhelmed by the amount of change that is coming at you and the speed at which it arrives. You are looking for answers—even just one or two ideas—that will help you be more effective.

  2. Your boss or company gave you this book and told you to read it. Their reasons are probably related to the previous point, but that doesn’t change the fact that this book is an imposed assignment rather than the book you chose to pick up for your afterhours consumption.

  3. You know me, are related to me, or have read one of my previous books. You may be interested to see what is on my mind, like my writing style, or feel obligated to know what I have said in case you run into me and I ask, “So, how did you like the book?”


This book is written for the leader who wants to make change work. It shares the lessons I’ve learned in over 20 years of helping leaders and organizations change. Much of that work—or at least something more than 30 percent—has been successful. Some of it has not. I have made a substantial part of my living helping organizations of all shapes and sizes implement change. I like to think the fact that they keep asking me for help means that I’m doing a few things correctly.
And there is something for the rest of you, too.

First, this book is short. It is written in small digestible chunks that will make it less painful for those being forced to read it and easier to grab relevant bites for those of you who want to make me feel good when I run into you.

Second, I hope you can already see that I am very passionate about the importance of actually making change work and that I want to make this at least a little entertaining. My goal is to make this a conversation, and like any conversation, there will be opportunities to interject a degree of levity.


The book is presented in four parts.
Part I is about the strategic side of change. It talks about the pace and scope of change today. It also shares ideas about why change doesn’t work, defines what good change looks like in today’s organizations, and provides an interesting comparison of dodos and coyotes. These animals, I believe, represent the best and worst characteristics of making change work today.

Part II is about becoming a change leader. It is the more tactical side. You will learn seven strategies and competencies for increasing the effectiveness of your change efforts. We won’t devote time to traditional change management principles of project management. There are many excellent resources for doing that.

Part III addresses the specific challenges that present themselves when change isn’t a choice (such as when a company downsizes or merges with another company) and you want to change your organization’s culture. Of all the changes that you will be asked to implement, our experience shows that these are the most difficult. You will also learn about how destructive stimulus-response loops prevent individuals and organizations from effectively responding to change.

Part IV looks to the future. The Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, “There is nothing permanent except change.” The pace and scope of change will only increase.

Each of the chapters contains bulleted action lists and opportunities to work on the application of the principles and strategies. Throughout the book you will see the names of clients and case studies. When you see a first and last name, it is the actual person. When you see only a first name, the example has been sanitized so that it will not embarrass the individual involved.


Ross Perot, founder of EDS and Perot Systems and former candidate for US president, famously said: “You manage data and things. You lead people.”

Change — when it is done well — is a competitive advantage that allows you to be more nimble and relevant in the marketplace.

Too often, we have treated people like data and things to be managed rather than as human beings with dreams, aspirations, and choices. We won’t make change work until we embrace the difference as an opportunity to make our organizations, our communities, and our lives better.
Let’s get started.

1. John P. Kotter, “Leading Change: Why Transformation Efforts Fail,” Harvard Business Review (March–April 1995): 1.

Featured Praises for Make Change Work

"I could rename this book, “How tulips, dodo birds and coyotes changed the way I think about change.”  Interested now?  You should be.  This book is the most fascinating, practical book about dealing with change I’ve ever read."

Larry Winget, television personality and bestselling author of Grow A Pair: How to Stop Being a Victim and Take Back Your Life, Your Business and Your Sanity

Make Change Work is the best book I have read on the real inner- workings of change. It could have easily called The Future Belongs to the Coyote. Pennington does a great job of equating the emotional side of change with the pragmatic, “let’s get it done”, side. Lessons for the future rest on these pages, no matter how many change scenarios we might have dealt with as managers.”

Gary Nelon
Chairman, First Texas Bancorp

“The highest praise I can give a book: "you will use it."  Randy Pennington has written an extraordinary book about change (and leadership, and culture, and execution, and more) that you won't just enjoy reading, you will use the ideas in it the second you put it down.  From his thoughts on "what's on top of your refrigerator" to "unpacking the baggage," you'll be thinking "I can do that" and "We have to do that" and "Why haven't we done that?" and then you'll do it.  Let me say it flat out, Randy Pennington is the best business writer I know, and this book will significantly impact and improve the way you do business”.  

Joe Calloway, author, Be The Best At What Matters Most

“Randy worked with our global Human Resources team and his practical, high energy approach provided a catalyst for us to stop waiting for results and culture to happen and take personal ownership.   His latest book, Make Change Work, lays a simple path from the strategy to tactics for change. Randy teaches leaders to attack change not as a process to manage but a way of operating that is reinforced by good habits and constant reminders that we celebrate and reward people for taking on change that delivers results.”

Susan Kelliher
SVP Human Resources, Albemarle Corporation

"In order to make change work, we have to change the way we work. Period. Randy Pennington takes you on a journey to not only change but also how to lead transformation." 

Brian Solis, author of What's the Future of Business (WTF) and Principal Analyst at Altimeter Group

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