Kearney & Company provides a variety of financial services to the Federal Government, including financial statement audits, IT audits, and various consulting services. For more information regarding what services we offer, click here.


Kearney & Company is consistently rated a Best Place to Work. One of the top CPA firms in the country, Kearney & Company is ideal for those looking to start or grow their careers. For a full listing of open positions, click here.

Overcoming the Valleys of Change to Get to the Summit

The journey of venturing beyond the status quo and reaching for new heights may go as planned or entail some unplanned bumps along the way. This is like the experiences of many individuals when implementing organizational change.

Overcoming the Valleys of Change to Get to the Summit

By Timothy Dunster and Kelly Papineau

Many people enjoy the change of scenery that biking or hiking in the mountains offer. They head out to achieve the goal of finding a new place, experiencing a breath-taking view, or exploring some hidden wonder. Setting and achieving goals apply to the great outdoors, as well as organizational change management. Reaching the peak often requires some off-road action, maneuvering across difficult terrain, or adjusting plans to accommodate the next move. At times, the adventurers may even ask themselves if the challenging trek is worth completing. After the journey is over, they might look back on the adventure and think, “That was an awesome experience; I can’t wait to do it again!” or “Hmmm, that may not have been the best move; next time I should make some changes!” The journey of venturing beyond the status quo and reaching for new heights may go as planned or entail some unplanned bumps along the way. This is like the experiences of many individuals when implementing organizational change.

In business and in life, we want to experience what others have only dreamed of and get there as soon as possible. Change management, when done right, can provide insights and actions to make the journey shorter and more effective. Like with any new journey, the right trail guide knows the best paths to take to achieve the desired experience in the time allotted, whether initiating a seemingly small change in an office or overhauling an organization’s activities. If your next adventure involves the next “big thing” in your organization, what can a trail guide (or trusted consultant) offer you? For one thing, the guide can prompt the organization to ask itself, “How can we minimize, or better yet, stop the pains caused by implementing changes in order to achieve the promised gains?”

Knowing what to expect and working through or around those concerns provides part of the solution. James C. Davies’ 1962 J-curve originally theorized how social and political factors lead to a drop in production immediately following an announced change and using the J-curve theories in business and organizational change applies even 60 years later. At some point, reliance on the new process must happen for performance to improve. The issue of how much and how fast change impacts operations must be addressed and communicated with a long-term view on success. Leaders must be prepared to accept or avoid the initial decline in productivity and efficiency and find ways to achieve the corresponding incline or higher plateau of their desired end state. Looking at these changes like mountain biking and the perils of the path: how deep of a valley has your organization fallen into while trying to make a change, what efforts are you willing to undertake to transform, and who will help guide you throughout the change?

Organizations can successfully navigate change by including various experts in the field or embracing members with recent hands-on experience to identify and overcome current obstacles. Skilled field guides and successful leaders will look to fully understand not only where the organization came from but also where it wants to go. When field guides and adventurers share perspectives with each other, they can get started in the right direction, help to minimize the negative impacts of change, and reach the summit. Ensuring the field guide team has the right mix of experience enables them to explain and identify what is needed to affect change. Stakeholders can avoid some of the deepest valleys by consulting with the right guides when navigating the trail from the “Current State” to the “Desired State”.

The guide can help the organization see the opportunities and embrace options to get over any ruts, rivers, or valleys. The rider may choose between common or less-obvious options while enduring the trail to get them beyond the challenge as soon as possible.

“Jump the Rut” Option: For those preferring to take a more direct and often higher-risk path through the problem, the shortest path may be to avoid or jump right over the obstacle. All parties of the business, especially leaders, need to prepare in advance for the change by communicating expectations; embracing organization philosophies; and sharing before, during, and after milestones. These preparatory steps collaboratively build a ramp, which allows the organization to pick up speed and implement the targeted change on the other side.

Training environments offer opportunities for efficient and effective change. If you have ever sat through an unengaging presentation, where each individual slide is read to you in a droning voice, you almost certainly recognize that this is an opportunity for improvement. Instead of traditional briefing slides with bulleted comments, more effective training influences the student across multiple levels including auditory, hands-on, or a more visual experience. Adding graphics, music, or other sensory experiences brings any slide presentation to life and enables trainees to process data faster, analyze data deeper, or focus more completely on the most important topics. Using multiple learning platforms makes the material more interesting and appealing to the audience and could encourage members to engage more with the subject matter. When overhauling something as “exciting” as training, organizations can avoid an anticipated rut of change by benchmarking other successful training programs which provides a schema to build a ramp before launching into the change.

Making seemingly small changes requires planning and preparation to successfully reach the other side and achieve the desired result. While it has been said to begin with the end in mind, success also requires an organization to know where it stands today. For that reason, a training event or briefing should be built from the ground up, much like a ramp. With the main themes being the pillars of training and the training seminar being the launch, organizations want to use that training to propel employees to the other side and land cleanly. That smooth landing enables employees to use the new-found knowledge or process. Building that ramp and hitting the target on the other side can provide lasting benefits, such as improved retention or better trained future leaders.

“Steady the Course” Option: Organizations may choose to flatten the rough parts of the trail when the planning and excitement factors needed to build and use a ramp don’t take off. If “exciting” changes to training aren’t an option for you, look for ways to steady the course with minor adjustments to fill in gaps. Perhaps, instead of working with different formats and flashy screens, the organization’s training program could access their materials at any time. You may have all the information needed but desire access to the information with a stronger social media presence. Giving the users 24-hour access to resources they already use and trust (e.g., traditional briefings, working papers, or search capabilities) will help them complete work in an increasingly virtual environment. These small improvements collectively result in successful outcomes by smoothing the trail with useful items from previous work. Sometimes new training isn’t needed right away but making team members aware of resources and then sharing information from multiple sources is more effective. Small adjustments can make slogging through the deeper valley a much more reasonable activity to accomplish. In this example, once access is unlocked to resources around the clock, people can choose the best information, format, and time to meet their needs. By choosing the best of the best, they can more easily find what they were looking for, and the number of resources available will most likely increase.

“Take the Scenic Route” Option: What can be done for organizations that don’t have a ramp to build or lack the materials and experience to smooth the trail? Well, if you can’t jump over it or go through it, then find a way around it. Looking outside the organization to find a shorter, flatter, or altogether different route may also help get achieve the level of productivity you desire. Instead of providing the same type of training, companies can outsource those details. For example, hiring a separate team to build a dashboard of common issues and linking data from multiple sources to replace stale reports could take a company’s area of frustration of static reporting and convert it into a strength with interactive data. Choosing the right data analytics products will provide standardized analysis and reduce the learning curve of the team while sharing impactful data with leadership. While this option may take additional time, the “scenic route” can offer stability and acceptance to the workplace while helping your organization reach to the successful side of change.

For the next change you look to execute, remember to avoid the problem valleys by choosing the path that fits your business the best. Getting a running start and using that ramp may get you to the destination faster with a bit more risk. Instead of jumping, recognizing the problems, taking your time, and filling in the gaps with known resources enables a calmer transition to your goal. If your organization needs a new perspective, thinking creatively might provide other inspirations to get you across to the other side while also providing new alternatives beyond the current planned change. Kearney & Company, a premier CPA firm focused on the Government, provides services across the financial management and information technology spectrum is an excellent choice for your needs. We have a passion to help our clients improve their overall effectiveness and efficiency. Let the professionals at Kearney work with you to improve your business…wherever the next journey leads and we’ll see you at the summit!


This publication is for informational purposes only and does not constitute professional advice or services. Readers should first consult with a professional before acting with regard to the subjects mentioned herein.

Kearney & Company, P.C. (Kearney) is a Certified Public Accounting (CPA) firm that is exclusively focused on providing accounting and consulting services to the Government.