Change Management and Adaptive Leadership

Change management involves the selection of strategies to facilitate the transition of individuals, teams, or organizations from a current state of operation to the new, desired state. It is a framework to guide how leaders of change to prepare and support those impacted by a change initiative. In addition to managing the technical aspects of change, change management involves managing the feelings, perceptions, and reactions of the people that may impact, or are impacted, by the change.

Most change management frameworks, such as Prosci’s 3-Phase Process or Kotter’s 8-Step Change Model, involve processes for creating an environment for change, facilitating the transition, and reinforcing or sustaining the change. A large part of successful change management is understanding all the people or stakeholders involved and adequately communicating in a transparent way.

Performance improvement (PI) initiatives involve the introduction of a change project to improve some aspect of organizational performance. Therefore, change management should always be exercised in concert with PI. For example, quality improvement projects involve testing and adopting an intervention to improve a particular process or outcome; accreditation may require an organization to revise practices so work is being documented; or performance management may involve staff to monitor and track their performance against standards.

Are you leaping to action? Are you analyzing your system prior to making decisions? Adaptive Leadership is a practical framework that helps individuals and organizations adapt and succeed in challenging environments. It increases the ability, both individually and collectively, to take on the gradual but meaningful process of change. Adaptive Leadership was developed by Drs. Ron Heifetz and Marty Linsky at the Harvard Kennedy School and was designed to identify and deal with consequential change in uncertain times. The concepts and principles of Adaptive Leadership have broad applications in the fields of public health and healthcare. The framework can be beneficial in managing organizational change, implementing community health improvement planning, developing leadership and workforce, strengthening community partnerships, and navigating changing political, social and economic climates.

Check out this short 5-minute video for a sense of what Adaptive Leadership means in the context of public health.

NACCHO’s Leading Adaptive Change in Public Health and Healthcare trainings

  • In-person Trainings: NACCHO offers overview (c. 4 hours) and in-depth (1 ½ days) in-person Adaptive Leadership trainings for groups interested in learning techniques for addressing adaptive challenges for public health, healthcare, and other practitioners.

Key Learning Outcomes

  • Partner with those who have authority and power, and better leverage your own power for change;
  • Understand and break through a persistent, recurring challenge that keeps surfacing in your organization, team or community;
  • Strengthen your ability to lead adaptively in multi-stakeholder environments rife with issues of trust, political sensitivities, resistance, conflict and distress;
  • Experiment with new ways of operating and partnering to address complex challenges; and
  • Deepen your own leadership capacity for creating lasting change, personal risk-taking and learning

For more information, please contact us at

It is critical to gain buy-in for PI initiatives from staff and external stakeholders, including community partners, funders, and governing entities. This Guide to Communicating about Performance Improvement provides a step by step approach to crafting messages and implementing strategies that build support for PI.

In order to access the guide, you must download it through NACCHO's Toolbox by clicking the link above. NACCHO's Toolbox is free and open to the public, but you must register for a NACCHO account to download items. Instructions for creating an account are available during the download process.

Access the Performance Improvement Communication Worksheets

Building an organizational culture of quality is a transformational change that requires deliberate change management. Systems and processes must be in place to support and sustain QI while also empowering staff to embrace and engage in QI. NACCHO’s Roadmap to a Culture of Quality (Roadmap) guides organizations through six phases of QI maturity using change management strategies. Visit the Roadmap to learn more about change management and QI.

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