The Change Leader’s Tradeoff

You’re probably familiar with the classic saying in business:

You can have it fast, cheap, or good. Pick two.

An interesting parallel to this idea exists in the field of change management. Change leaders are regularly faced with having to make a trade-off between two valued attributes of transformation: speed and buy-in.

While in a perfect world, we would want organizational change to be done with maximum speed while generating optimal employee buy-in, experience tells us that this is very much a binary proposition. That is, if you want to change very quickly, it’s going to come at the direct cost of buy-in. Similarly, if your goal is to generate a high level of staff buy-in, this will necessarily cost you time.

You can have it fast.

You can have it with buy-in.

The leadership act is to decide which is more important, which cost you’re willing to accept, and what you’re going to do as a consequence of that choice.