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Exploring the Application of an Integrated Strategic and Change Management Framework to the Issue of Mass Shootings

Acts of gun violence against innocents, particularly mass shootings, are generally agreed as heinous.  Yet, government’s effort to legislate on the issue is arguably failing.  This article explores an alternative approach to alleviating the issue, specifically through an integration of Kaplan and Norton’s leading practice approach to strategic management (The Execution Premium, 2008) and Kotter and Cohen’s leading practice change management methodology, (The Heart of Change, 2002 and The Heart of Change Field Guide, 2005).

This article is not intended to be comprehensive; it aims to introduce leading practice management techniques to the dialogue on this complicated, heartbreaking issue.  The Kotter and Cohen method’s integration is important because it emphasizes cultural and behavioral change.  This is critical because, ultimately, what will reduce incidences are societal and individual decisions around prevention, and individual decisions including and leading up to pulling the trigger.


Phase I. Set the Strategy and Create a Climate for Change

The objectives of this first phase are to increase urgency to take action, determine a guiding team and create a strategy statement.  Urgency arguably currently exists.  In determining a guiding team, it is important to enlist leaders who are fully committed, well respected and have the power and influence to realize the strategy.  In creating the strategy statement, first determine foundational guidance: purpose/mission, critical values, desired future state or vision, and root causes and deterrents.


Purpose / Mission
Answers the Question Why do we need to do something?
  • Acts of gun violence against innocents, particularly mass shootings, in America are heinous
Answers the Question What do we hold most important?
  • “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” The Declaration of Independence
  • “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” The Second Amendment
  • Legal justifications exist for acts of gun violence (e.g. self-defense or defense of another)
Desired Future Results/Vision
Examples How do we envision the ultimate long-term goal?
Illustrative Considerations
  • “I have, therefore, chosen this time and this place to discuss a topic on which ignorance too often abounds and the truth is too rarely perceived–yet it is the most important topic on earth: world peace.  What kind of peace do I mean? What kind of peace do we seek? Not a Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war. Not the peace of the grave or the security of the slave. I am talking about genuine peace, the kind of peace that makes life on earth worth living, the kind that enables men and nations to grow and to hope and to build a better life for their children–not merely peace for Americans but peace for all men and women–not merely peace in our time but peace for all time.” President John F. Kennedy, Commencement Address at American University, June 10, 1963
  • A 5 percent unemployment rate simplifies economic program coordination and keeps the issue ever present.
Root Causes and Deterrents
Answers the Question What are the causal factors of mass shootings and what are the causal deterrents of mass shootings?
  • TBD by experts


The strategy statement answers the questions:

  • What is the goal?
  • How will we know when it is achieved?
  • What or who does the goal pertain to?
  • How is the goal going to be achieved?


Phase II. Translate the Strategy and Engage and Enable

This phase focuses on transforming strategy into action plans by specifying objectives and measures.  Once objectives and measures are determined, initiatives are identified to support their realization.  This phase involves communicating for buy-in, empowering action, increasing engagement, and broadening the base of commitment to realizing the strategy.  The media can potentially support this by being informed of the vision, strategy and goals.  Also, they can keep the issue newsworthy by shifting from incident-based reporting to monitoring progress to strategic achievement.


Phase III. Create Plans and Continue to Engage and Enable

This phase focuses on creating the financial control process.  Budgets typically serve to coordinate and control, particularly in decentralized circumstances; however, the “Beyond Budgeting” movement argues that budgets have fundamental flaws including stifling innovation and reducing flexibility needed by leaders and implementers.  Differing approaches should be considered in determining how best to align to strategy realization.  This phase’s change management steps are enabling action, whereby leaders help diminish barriers to strategy realization, and meaningfully celebrating accomplishments to maintain urgency on the strategy and vision.


Phase IV. Monitor, Learn, and Sustain

Put the strategy and supporting plans into action, conduct review sessions, and make needed adjustments. Those accountable for initiatives report progress to the plan by reporting progress to objectives and measures.  Open collaboration to problem-solve and continuously improve must be emphasized.  This phase includes the change management step focused on not letting up.


Phase V. Test, Adapt, and Sustain

In this phase, develop and analyze reports (e.g. statistical analyses to determine correlations – or lack thereof – as a means to validate and quantify links between investments). Conduct a strategy review session in order to determine if an incremental or transformational strategy refresh is needed in tracking to the vision.  From a change management perspective, focus on “making the change stick,” i.e. embedding the strategy and vision culturally.  Leaders must recognize, reward and model aligned behaviors to make the change “the way we are here.”



In moving towards a solution to alleviate the issue of mass shootings, the integrated framework aims to add to the conversation of how to stem a serious problem that ebbs and flows in policy urgency and has yet to be solved through legislation.  The framework focuses on establishing a strategy – not a confusing, hard to remember jumble of goals and objectives, but a clearly articulated strategy – and leveraging the strategy to guide unified, coordinated, and concerted action across diverse stakeholders.  Importantly, the framework integrates behavior change because what will ultimately reduce incidences are societal and individual decisions around prevention, and individual decisions including and up to pulling the trigger.



Author: Catherine Howard, MPM, is a specialist in strategy and change. She can be reached at [email protected]  

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