Summary of Built to Change

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  • Innovative


This is a bold, fascinating and occasionally dangerous book, which getAbstract recommends to those who want to plan carefully and honestly for the future. Why "carefully" and "honestly?" Because authors Edward E. Lawler III and Christopher G. Worley are savvy enough to identify the kind of organization best suited for a business environment shaped by continuous change - and bold enough to prescribe the actions leaders must take to survive in this environment. These actions require care and honesty because they differ so fundamentally from many past business practices. For example, the idea of continually re-planning your market position sounds straightforward. However, to then eliminate all employees who have done great work, but whose skill base does not match the firm’s new portfolio, is risky and requires great faith in your vision. As the authors repeatedly note, the future is difficult to predict, and impossible to predict completely. What’s more, for individual managers to examine their organizations, see that they no longer fit and voluntarily step aside will require rigorous honesty and responsibility. They would need to have planned their careers and finances well enough that self-interest does not blind them. Many of this book’s ideas have a similar nature. They seem good and right, but applying them successfully will require great discipline.

About the Authors

Consultant Edward E. Lawler III teaches in USC’s Marshall School of Business and is the author of Treat People Right. He founded the university’s Center for Effective Organization, where Christopher G. Worley is a research scientist. Worley also wrote Integrated Systemic Change.



Change and Its Challenges

In the contemporary world, to be excellent, you have to change, change continually and be able to change quickly. It isn’t enough just to endure. Your company can survive, but not operate at the highest level. Because external circumstances have shifted so much in recent decades, you may have seen many organizations try to change - and fail. Most organizations are not designed to change, but to maintain existing routines. Guiding change is hard for executives. Even as you try to predict and plan for the future, you are also under pressure to maintain current operations and achievements.

Your organization already may have changed once or twice successfully, but it probably didn’t get any better at the process of changing. That’s because organizations don’t focus on change as the norm that it has become. Instead, they change, and then stop changing, and later are faced with having to change again. They try to find and freeze a new status quo by institutionalizing their best practices. Instead, they must be built to change ("b2change"). This means switching from accenting specific best practices - no matter how genuinely good they may be - and...

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