The Ladder of Change TM

It is not necessary to re-invent the wheel if you can stand on the shoulders of giants.

Since 1973 a body of evidence measuring personal values systems (the motivational states that drive the 'sentiments' or emotions) has been gathered. So far, CDSM's databases have evidence on nationally representative samples of adults (in work and not in work) from countries that comprise over 60% of the world's population. These countries cover a wide variety of cultures, with different religions, political and economic systems, historical development arcs, and a wide variety of ways they structure their organizations and institutions (ways of regulating organizations).

For an introduction to the methodology and ways it has been used for the analysis of disparate cultures follow these links:

This body of evidence can be used to provide insights into the stresses and strains between different values systems in any national culture - the context within which all organizations exist. The individual level analysis of the gathered data enables decision makers to keep individuals squarely within their sights as they develop new ways of thought and behaviour in their corporate cultures.

The individual level data can be aggregated in specified groups for deeper dynamic analysis of interactions; of cultural and individual stresses within small work groups; or extensive analysis at the organizational culture level.

A large body of work-based evidence has been used to create a model of dynamic change - how changes lead to other changes - that shows the way to drive transformation in any organization. First conceived over 20 years ago by Pat Dade it has been used by many organizations to diagnose issues and provide a clear guide to remedies - including both industrial and organizational psychology principles.

Introducing the Ladder of ChangeTM

Over 25 years ago Pat Dade of Cultural Dynamics Strategy and Marketing Ltd. (CDSM) developed a model incorporating many of the insights and practices discovered through research over the last century - The Ladder of ChangeTM.

Backed by Values data collected over nearly 50 years, in countries that contain over 60% of the wold's population; using a psychological needs model of organizations and building on past and present thinking and research, gives users of the Ladder of ChangeTM the ability to understand, in depth, the cultural dynamics of their organizations and groups within their organizations.

The uniqueness of the model is not just that it allows deep insight into the organization internally, but that it sets the context in which to understand emerging value chain and/or future consumer needs, wants and desires that present themselves as threats or opportunities - depending on the corporation's awareness of them before the event. Healthy organizations learn how to satisfy human needs at all levels of experience, types of roles and responsibilities; and how to coordinate these differing needs within fully functioning multifaceted organizational cultures.

It all sounds complicated, but in reality once the organization has spent the necessary time and effort to define their vision and values, the Ladder of ChangeTM enables users to define issues and select solutions with a great deal of certainty.

Hugh Evans, CEO of Cultural Dynamics Canada, wrote a succinct introduction to this evidence-based tool for analysing the current state of corporate resources and the blocks and bridges to future health

Hugh writes (quote):

An organization exists to turn inputs into outputs. So how do we create organizations that are healthy, productive and high performing?

It's all about people.

People's needs, drives and motivations differ and are often invisible. This makes the task of creating and sustaining healthy organizations complex. In order to make this possible and practicable, our Cultural Dynamics values research reveals what is most important to people in your organization and how you can design organizational systems congruent with their personal values that will motivate people to behave in ways that you need to see for success.

How do people differ?

Our senses tell us that we all live in one world, and - true enough - we share one planet. But our senses mislead us if we conclude that we all experience the same reality, and that fundamentally, we all see the world in the same way. If we did, then 'what worked' for one could work for all, and we'd just need to provide enough facts or education, or the same type of inducements to resolve any argument, or end any conflict.

In reality, as far as communication and motivation are concerned, we have not one world but three. These three worlds are hidden from us because they are not physical but psychological: yet what divides them are our most deeply held beliefs about what is really important. The worlds are Settler, Prospector and Pioneer.

For healthy, productive organizations we need all three worlds to co-exist. There are natural tensions between the three worlds which, left unattended, will be the cause of silos, distrustful teams and, in some cases, outright conflict. This will make change more difficult and ultimately will undermine performance individually and collectively.

The Ladder of ChangeTM is about how to get the most productivity and effectiveness from your people and in so doing satisfy each and every person's personal and/or growth needs. The net result is a healthy organisation that delivers great results and is good for people.

  • On the left-hand side are the management styles most appropriate for needs of the organization at each of the 3 stages of development. At the Settler stage the management style most appropriate to achieve the basic organizational purpose is based on creating and controlling systems for creating empowered specialists.
  • Essentially empowered specialists are people who have a specific job that turns inputs into outputs, know what is expected of them, where they fit in, how they contribute to the vision and strategy of the organization, trained in the organization's processes and understand 'how things are done around here'. These actions consist of typical behaviours summarized in the middle of the slide.
  • On the right-hand side are the operational resources that are required to facilitate the group activities described in the middle of the Ladder.
  • The Ladder of ChangeTM is sequential and resource priorities have to begin at the bottom. As the needs are satisfied in terms of management style and operational processes - and increasing competence of the workforce - the next step can and is taken. Shortcuts will have consequences for effectiveness and longevity of an organization.
  • At the foundation is the Settler - Controller, management style. This is about 'create specialists', essentially meaning that everyone knows their role, their contribution and how 'things work around here'. If the latter is not explicit and defined then people will naturally create their ways of doing things, which can end up being incongruent and disconnected to others in the organizational system.
  • The operational resources needed at the Settler level are defined as follows.
    • Recruitment and training is about identifying the right person for existing or new teams and fitting them into the organizational 'way we do things around here'. This is onboarding processes. Build a sense of belonging to something that is bigger than yourself. We can create templates for this.
    • Education is expressed in terms of organizational history, successes and most importantly the organizational vision of the future and values through which this will be achieved. This is critical to sustainable success and is the one area that has been overlooked over the last 40 years of massive cultural change.
    • Communication is training people to communicate, directly between peers and others, and indirectly through various forms of media - all in terms of values and the insights provided by Cultural Dynamics values research over many decades.
    • Without these basics in place the business might achieve excellence, but it will not be repeatable and sustainable as it continuously transitions in reaction to changing cultural values and market conditions.
    • Once these resources are applied and management style facilitates the creation of healthy individual, and group, operational behaviours - a new level of needs start kicking in.


  • Management style becomes more Prospector style - called the Turbo Charger - and becomes more a part of the team and less of a controlling, enforcing type of management. In this form of management, the manager is typically an experienced person who has done the type of work their team is responsible for accomplishing. They feed their experience into the group - adding energy to the engine. Many of today‚Äôs managers have little more experience, in some cases less, than their team members.
  • Prospector needs are fulfilled by satisfying the needs for reward, recognition and experience resources. The definitions are as follows:
    • Reward means the company creating a form of acknowledgement that is of value to the individual or group that has achieved the desired corporate goals. Most companies think this is about money, but many bodies of research have shown this has only a limited ability to meet the needs of people above a certain level of income. Rewards can come in more individualized packages of life satisfying behaviours and materials like professional and non-professional educational opportunities, skills developments in non-work areas of life, opportunities for secondment to other companies who need their level of expertise but can't afford it, opportunities to use company time for local charity work, etc.
    • Recognition is both internal - the opportunity to use their skills with another part of the company, the opportunity to develop new and possibly novel solutions that involve more than one department; and external when becoming a company representative in expert working groups involving other companies in the supply chain and with their other market participants, i.e.i.e. potential competitors.
    • Experience is a necessary need to be filled as individuals become more market focused and visionary due to the increased skill levels and work experience embodied in the climbing of the Ladder of Change. Failure to develop and plan for this step of the Ladder is often characterized as the 'the glass ceiling' where middle management and skilled individuals are limited by corporate policies that only recognize factors beyond this model as being suitable for higher management and leadership - often defined by formal education qualifications and career path achieved in other organizations. This failure to recognize the needs of the individuals typically leads to the loss of the most experienced and potentially valuable individuals in terms of value to corporate growth and innovation.


  • The top steps of the Ladder are defined by a very different management style - almost a non-management style. At this level management becomes the keeper of the vision for the teams they work with and indeed instil and remind them of the reason they are doing the job - the bigger picture. The assumption that simply hiring Pioneers will enable the organization to perform at this level is flawed. Whatever the values of the hired individual, they need to go up the ladder one rung at a time and the key is that the actual employee experience is congruent with their values whilst maintaining the integrity of building and sustaining a healthy organization.
  • Individuals and teams operating at this level neither desire nor need traditional forms of controlling or turbo charging managers. Companies operating at this level have sustainable systems of organizational support these will be manifest in the lower steps of the Ladder that support the vision, mission and objectives of the individuals and teams in the organization.
  • At this stage, systems of transparent reporting and individualized work objectives will already be in place to enable the company to satisfy the needs of their workforce.
  • Significantly, stakeholders and the market will also be provided with clear and consistent reporting of the way resources, human and structural, are deployed in the creation of value - again these facets will have already been established down the ladder. Without this, the unity and autonomy desired at this stage will be based on rocky foundations, which is likely impact the sustainability and ongoing health of the organization.

(End quote)

Hugh's introduction to the Ladder of ChangeTM provides a succinct overview of the processes involved in transforming any organization. Based on solid insights into human psychology and the workplace the model encapsulates over 160 years of research and development.

Before further articles are developed it may be useful to illustrate a further simplification of the CDSM Ladder of Change model to further focus and frame transformation processes.


Cultural Dynamics Strategy & Marketing Ltd.          email:          tel: +44 (0)208 744 2546