We find ourselves at a time in human history where almost every adult and child belongs to, works in and is deeply affected by organisations. Organisations dominate our lives – we are dependent on them for our livelihood, education, entertainment, food, government, health, investments and pensions. The most striking feature of these organisations, as we enter the 21st century, is that change initiatives are pervasively present throughout all of them, and occurring at such an increasing pace that one is seldom completed before the next one starts.
This is hardly sustainable, particularly given that these change initiatives, re-organisations or transformations (whatever people choose to call them) involve significant personal cost and organisational resources, but seldom realise the value promised at their outset. People’s response to this situation varies and they either rise to the occasion, comply, resist the onslaught or use whatever power they have to force change through. Something is very confused about the way we approach change. Perhaps it is time for a re-think.
Some of our thinking about a more coherent approach
to organisational change:
- Organisational change is almost always an adaptive process, not primarily a technical one.
- If people do not adapt to the new ways of working it cannot succeed
- That means that rolling out a set change programme, giving people a technical training and expecting buy-in to sustained change, ignores a key part of what is needed.
- Nobody is resistant to change - if they are a part of the process. Almost everyone is resistant to change if it is imposed on them.
- Do change with people not to people
- That means including everyone (or real representatives of every stakeholder group) who is affected by the change in the thinking about the change before reaching a decision.
- All people are innately intelligent, compassionate and like to participate.
- Treat them this way and you will be surprised with what you discover
- That means listening to what people think and why, thereby enabling them to contribute to the best solution
- There are far more inter-dependencies than you or any group of experts can identify and take into account on your own.
- Including the thinking of people who challenge your proposals will help to improve them
- That means listening to those people who do not agree with you, and enquiring into their views to find out what they know that you don’t and may benefit everyone if you did understand it
- Change is too complex to be forced through at high pace
- It is faster to go slowly with people
- That means not just telling people what they have to do, but talking and thinking it through together in depth
- If you are talking about ‘them’ then you don’t have everyone you need in the conversation
- It takes a microcosm of the whole system to determine the best way forward
- That means giving a voice to every grouping affected by the change, whomever they are
- Organisations have complex power structures that will derail change if they are not accommodated effectively
- Decisions move along power lines and the resulting silos fragment thinking
- That means helping people see the whole picture as well as their own local one
- The more stakeholders there are, the more skill it takes to talk and think together well
- Give all involved access to the skills required
- That means providing the same Dialogue skill development for everyone involved and not restricting it to the leadership
Over the years we have developed a practical model for adaptive change that can easily be transferred into any organisation in order to manage change through common sense at local levels and at scale. This is called the Implicate Change Model (© Dialogue Associates 2006) because the implications of change are thought through with those involved as an efficient and necessary part of the process. Fundamental to the approach are the Dialogue skills for talking and thinking together, and the Dialogic Principles for vibrant living systems.
To consider how we might introduce Implicate Change in your organisation, contact us
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