Appeal To The Heart: Creating Lasting Change Within Your Organization

Posted by Michael Lindberg on Apr 24, 2017 11:16:39 AM

emotional appeal

Create Lasting Change

Creating a sense of urgency is not only the first step; it is also the most important and most difficult step towards making change. The reason is obvious: If the organization feels no need for change then the likelihood of it occurring is very low. The employees may say that they appreciate the need for change and they may even nod at the proposed changes, but still nothing happens if they feel no urgent need for it.


Change cannot be ordered – even though many managers tend to believe so. It is as simple as that.
So what can be done to create a sense of urgency? Most managers try the traditional way:

analyze think change

You know the drill: Tons of PowerPoint slides and lots of Excel sheets full of carefully analyzed reasons and arguments. Makes sense, right? The only problem is that it doesn’t work. The reason is simple: It fails to create a sense of urgency among employees. Arguments may convince the brain that change is needed, but they do not speak to the heart - with no emotional appeal, creating lasting change within your organization becomes extremely difficult.

Emotional Appeal

According to Harvard Business School's John Kotter, a sense of urgency can only be created in the heart. Fortunately, he shows how it can be done: 

see feel change


It is imperative that employees see the problem or solution in a way that engages them emotionally. The term “solution” is included here because a sense of urgency need not be related to a problem. True, Kotter and many other change gurus speak a great deal about a “burning platform”, and about how such a burning platform is often required to make an organization change. Of course, people who face a serious problem are more prone to change, but problems are negative by nature while solutions are positive. Why not look forward to a bright future instead of looking back at a challenging past? The outcome may be the same, but the journey is likely to be much more positive. 


Seeing is believing, as the saying goes, but it is not quite enough. According to Kotter profound change only happens when the organization not only sees, but also feels the need for change – deep in their hearts. Kotter uses an example to prove his point: A local library needs new computers. Not everyone agrees; some see no problem with the current computers. This leaves two options for making the change happen: You either speak to the brain by using PowerPoint slides to compare the library’s computers to current models, demonstrating the difference in processing power, memory capacity etc. Or you make the audience feel the need in their hearts by relating a – true – story of a pupil from a poor family who relies on the library’s computers for homework; computers that are too slow and outdated to allow her to finish her assignments. Which scenario do you think works best?


A change of heart changes behavior – and a change in behavior is the first step needed to drive change in an organization. When you make your organization see the problem and feel the consequences in their hearts, you stand a good chance of actually achieving the required change. But how do you make the employees see, and then feel, the need for change? Kotter has a simple suggestion: “Bring the outside in”. Listen to your customers. If they do not speak to you unprompted, ask them




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Topics: Change