Drive Positive Change with Bad News

Don’t get too comfortable. In the business realm, holding on to the status quo can be far more dangerous than implementing dramatic change. When management deliberately ignores issues because the risk of change is too great, the consequences can be disastrous.

For the legal workplace, as in any other business environment, implementing widespread change requires cooperation between many individuals across a range of different job roles. If those changes need to be made to the entire firm’s culture, everyone should be involved in the process. In this regard, communication and collaboration are vital, and avoiding even minor issues can lead to bigger problems.

Retired Harvard Business School professor John P. Kotter wrote an exceptional article in 1995 about leading change and avoiding the pitfalls of transformation efforts.

The eight steps he provides are all important, but the fundamental building block for them all is establishing a sense of urgency. No successful change can ever occur in a workplace unless people take a hard look at what’s hindering performance and highlight those issues to spur action.

Kotter touches on one of the major challenges of establishing a sense of urgency and refers to solution:

“Because there seems to be an almost universal human tendency to shoot the bearer of bad news, especially if the head of the organization is not a change champion, executives in these companies often rely on outsiders to bring unwanted information.” – John P. Kotter

Legal administrators especially need to understand, and educate about, the importance of proactive communication and collaboration.  This will help allay the fear that upper management will resist bad news. As Kotter demonstrates in his article, better understanding these stages of change will encourage solutions and boost the chances of a successful transformation.


Rich Boyer
Rich is Founding Partner of ModernThink LLC, a strategic organizational development and management consulting firm that focuses on workplace excellence.