The Friction Project: Leading Successful Change

Many new initiatives fail and lead to a downward spiral of disinterest and distrust. Yet, by employing a thoughtful methodology to mobilize for change, you can avoid common pitfalls and navigate the challenges that often accompany change initiatives.

Course Introduction


Successfully leading change isn’t about forcing compliance; it’s about creating an environment where people act willingly and welcome new directions. This willingness is often influenced by the “friction” they encounter in the organization. Imagine a door hinge: too much rust (bad friction) and the door is hard to open, but a little resistance (good friction) keeps the door from slamming. For instance, overwhelming bureaucracy is a form of bad friction that stifles enthusiasm and openness to new ideas. On the other hand, good friction, such as guardrails for deterring rash or risky decisions, acts as a safeguard, helping ensure that we don’t move too fast and make mistakes.

In this course, you’ll learn the craft of ‘friction fixing’, where the goal is to manage friction wisely rather than to eradicate it.

A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don't necessarily want to go, but ought to be.
Eleanor Rosalynn Carter

Once we’ve pinpointed the sources of friction to address, the PRESS Framework comes into play. This methodology encompasses Persuasion, Recruiting Support, Energizing New Behavior, Staffing a Change Team, and Sequencing Change. It equips you with the tools to amplify changes beyond just the early adopters. By the end, you’ll have a hands-on 100 day plan, ready to set your change initiative into motion.

Lastly, the course emphasizes the transformative leadership attitude of serving as ‘trustees of others’ time.’ This principle urges leaders to enhance organizational efficiency with a deep-seated respect for everyone’s time and effort. The overarching aim? To create workplaces that aren’t just efficient but are also humane, innovative, and adaptive to change.

Key Topics

  • Bad friction and good friction in organizations
  • Leading change as a diffusion process
  • Persuading your organizational superiors, peers, and subordinates
  • Recruiting support and overcoming resistance
  • Energizing new behavior through information, incentives, and empowerment
  • Staffing a change team
  • Sequencing change
  • Developing and stress-testing a 100 day change plan

Course Faculty

Hayagreeva Rao

The Atholl McBean Professor of Organizational Behavior and Human Resources


Marineh Lalikian
Director, Stanford LEAD Online Business Program Executive Education