Skip to main content

Leadership and Sustaining Breakthrough Change

For anyone interested in creating and sustaining breakthrough change, you may want to read a fascinating article by Matthew Chin entitled Sustainability and the Second Law of Thermodynamics (September 2003). Matthew runs Operations Success Programs with the Primary Care Development Corporation, an organization that helps health centers and clinics form learning collaboratives to achieve and sustain transformational change in serving the poor, the uninsured, and the under-insured in New York City.

After years of implementing a highly successful organizational learning model in diverse health centers and clinics, he and his colleagues became interested in why clinics and health centers have a hard time sustaining the gains that they made. He discovered that leadership was critical to long-term success. According to Matthew, there are two essential leadership actions that promote sustainable change.

  • Communicating often and clearly to everyone about the new way of doing things and the new way of measuring results in order to create clarity concerning what the organization cares about and thinks is important
  • Ensuring that the human systems of the organization are aligned to foster and reinforce the new culture and its values (e.g., the process for hiring, assessing performance, providing rewards and recognition, and dismissing employees)

Matthew has identified several supports to sustain breakthrough changes.

  • Prepare leadership more completely for the transformational change journey
  • Create change in rapidly progressive waves of specific training and action steps
  • Provide active coaching and maintenance checkups to ensure that changes made are made permanently
  • Find visionary partners in corporate and private philanthropy to support this work

What have you learned from your efforts about how to sustain breakthrough changes and the role of leadership in that process?
Comment below.