The Problem with Change Book Summary - The Problem with Change Book explained in key points
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The Problem with Change summary

Ashley Goodall

And the Essential Nature of Human Performance

14 mins
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    The Problem with Change
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    Experiencing turbulence

    Do you ever feel like your work life is constantly in flux? Are mergers, reorganizations, new strategies, new models, or new office spaces the norm in your company? For some, today’s business world is one where the ground beneath their feet is always shifting and they’re never quite sure what tomorrow will bring. Ashley Goodall, the author, likens this to “life in the blender.”

    For many business leaders today, disruption is an article of faith. They have to disrupt to stay competitive in today’s fast-paced world. But what if all this change came at a price – a price that often goes unrecognized?

    Consider Sarah who works in human resources. When her company was acquired, the HR departments of the two firms were consolidated. Although she kept her job, many of her colleagues were replaced or quit. She describes being deeply unsettled as she lost almost her entire network within the company.

    Across companies and industries, the stories are consistent; stories of confusion, frustration, and fatigue. Constant flux makes it hard to get work done as reporting lines shift, processes change, and key people leave. Networks and relationships that took years to build are suddenly severed, leaving employees disoriented and distrustful.

    Layoffs, which often follow on the heels of reorganizations, sow further disruption. Uncertainty breeds anxiety as everyone wonders when the next big shake-up will hit. Employees resort to reading the tea leaves in their boss’s behavior, bracing for impact when communication drops. Some leaders try to shield their teams from the onslaught, feeling more like human shields than coaches. Amongst it all, the “toxic positivity” of executives touting silver linings begins to ring hollow.

    Over her 24-year career, Linda has been through so many changes – mergers, spin-offs, reorganizations, acquisitions, and so on – that she started a spreadsheet to keep track of it all. By her count, she’s weathered 44 major changes across 12 companies. Each entry is a reminder of the chaos she's endured: the time her division was sold and she had to re-interview for her own job; the time a layoff claimed half her team; the miserable year in which her company cycled through three CEOs. What struck Linda is how little all this change has ultimately accomplished. Despite the endless restructurings, her industry is still struggling. As she puts it, “It makes you wonder what it’s all for.”

    Yet curiously, once a major change is set in motion, it often takes on a life of its own. No matter how much chaos it unleashes, course corrections are rare. It’s as if organizations become captive to their own change initiatives, seeing them through even as evidence mounts that things have gone off the rails.

    Leaders aren’t disrupting for the thrill of inflicting pain. And most would agree that change is sometimes needed. All of this begs the question, then: If change is supposed to be so good and necessary, why, in practice, is it so often experienced as miserable and destructive on the ground?

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    What is The Problem with Change about?

    The Problem With Change (2024) argues that the constant disruption pursued by corporate leaders isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. It reveals how perpetual upheaval exerts a psychological toll that undermines motivation, productivity, and performance, offering strategies that you can use to create the stability needed to thrive.

    The Problem with Change Review

    The Problem with Change (2021) sheds light on why change is difficult for individuals and organizations, offering valuable insights for navigating transformation processes. Here's why this book is worth your time:

    • Provides deep analysis on the psychology behind resistance to change, helping readers understand the root causes of their reluctance.
    • Offers practical strategies and actionable steps for embracing and driving change effectively, empowering readers to navigate transitions with confidence.
    • Through compelling case studies and anecdotal evidence, the book breaks down complex concepts into relatable stories, keeping readers engaged and invested in the topic.

    Who should read The Problem with Change?

    • Employees who’ve been through the wringer of reorgs, layoffs, and strategic shifts
    • HR professionals seeking to advocate for the human side of change initiatives
    • Managers seeking to keep their teams engaged and motivated

    About the Author

    Ashley Goodall is a leadership expert who has served as an executive at Cisco. He’s the co-author of Nine Lies About Work, named the best management book of 2019 by Strategy+Business, as well as one of Amazon’s top business and leadership books of 2019.

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    The Problem with Change FAQs 

    What is the main message of The Problem with Change?

    The main message of The Problem with Change is understanding the challenges and opportunities that come with change in organizations.

    How long does it take to read The Problem with Change?

    The estimated reading time for The Problem with Change is a few hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in under 15 minutes.

    Is The Problem with Change a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The book is worth reading for its insights on navigating change effectively in corporate settings.

    Who is the author of The Problem with Change?

    The author of The Problem with Change is Ashley Goodall.

    What to read after The Problem with Change?

    If you're wondering what to read next after The Problem with Change, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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    • Optimal by Daniel Goleman & Cary Cherniss
    • Atomic Habits by James Clear
    • How to Stop Procrastinating by Steve Scott
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    • The Stoic Mindset by Mark Tuitert