Influence change (using the four RUST steps)

4th February 2014

So I asked a stupid question to a leadership team last week:

How often do you guys have Flavours of the Month?”

Their answer:

Er… every month?”

I guess I set myself up for that one.

We then discussed something you see in organisations all over the world:

The new strategy roll-out that will revolutionise everything forever

…Until next month, when we’ve drifted back to where we were, or launch our Next Big Thing.

Recognise this? It’s a big problem. Not just for people’s acceptance of, and confidence in, this strategy; but for future ones too.

Instead, to influence change so it sticks, there are four key components – what I call my RUST model:

     Role models

Role models

Leadership must proactively, visibly embody the new way, leading from the front so others follow. And they must never revert – even when they are so busy that they (wrongly) think that they have a valid excuse for doing so. Nothing kills things faster than when someone says ‘I’m not doing this. My boss hasn’t.’


Everyone must understand the change, why it’s important, and the benefits to them of it. They must also understand their new role, and be comfortable with it.


There must be new systems, procedures and measurement processes to reinforce change.

For example, I was recently called in to work with a company whose new “make the customer the #1 priority” strategy wasn’t working. I quickly identified one reason: they hadn’t changed how they tracked performance. People’s KPIs were still based on hitting sales targets, so they presumed sales were more important than the customers’ happiness (when choosing your KPIs, remember: people REspect what you INspect).


Everyone must have the necessary skills, talent and confidence to do things the new way.

But, are all four needed?

You can tell the importance of a list like this by asking “Which of these could we remove without reducing the chance of it working?” Here, we clearly need all four.

And/or you can gauge the importance of each by thinking about a recent change initiative that didn’t work, and ask “Which of RUST was missing?”

Once you see how essential all four are, it becomes a question of planning and communicating for each. For example, leaders will need training on (1) the new way and (2) how to role model it. Everyone else will need to hear more than once the change, and their role in it.

So, let’s end with a stupid question and a good question:

The stupid one: How often does your company have Flavours of the Month?

The good one: Which elements of RUST could you incorporate, to help your strategies land better than they do now?

Action point

What’s the Next Big Thing you’re launching? Review RUST – have you done all you can for all four?

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