I got hooked this morning reading and thinking about how change is changing and how we can be more effective as leaders and as practitioners providing guidance to leaders.
It all started with this great LinkedIn post from David McLean, MA (Leadership) CHRL and the fascinating comments here Managing Change is Essential for Continued Success in a #vuca World. I began drafting a comment but, as I thought through, it grew too long so I am sharing it here.
David shared many important models in his post, and others chime in through the comments with more (worth reviewing those). However, what really caught my mind was David’s graphic which called the connection between “what is happening” and “how to address it”. Same is true for many of the models and this is the reason that experienced Transformation Leads reference multiple models.
Different types of models for different types of change (organizational contexts and strategies)
Reading and reflecting reminded me that:
- The human experience is a result of our biological wiring and conditions and evolves over generations so it should be viewed as foundational. Some models describe this universal experience of how humans react to change, eg SCARF. These have perennial value.
- Other models recommended are action-oriented, focused on how to change, and describe steps and activities to help people traverse this experience.
It is essential to understand the difference and to use them appropriately.
Further, within the action-oriented realm, the “how to change”, these are specific approaches that should be applied to the corresponding contexts, ie
- A model (and tools) developed for a hierarchical, structured culture should only be used there and are likely of diminishing value as the organization will not be able to change fast enough to complete. References to Kurt Lewin’s approach, while usually very accurate, concern me greatly as “Unfreeze, Change, Re-freeze” implies a few linear changes which is far from the experience of most organizations today. A different mindset and models are required.
- Models (and tools) developed for VUCA should be deployed with great care in helping such cultures support VUCA strategy
- Organizations born in a VUCA world have grown the required capabilities into their early cultures but are at risk as they evolve from small, naturally agile start-ups into more formalized global monoliths
The universal human experience of change – Foundational and perennial
On understanding the universal human response, I look to Daryl Conner’s work. Examples:
- Responses to Positively Perceived Change and Responses to Negatively Perceived Change. When you hear blanket colloquialisms like “people hate change” be wary and dive back into insightful models
- “The Commitment Series” In particular, I find the distinction between where resistance can start to be highly insightful. So often it is advocated to develop a “Resistance Plan” … However, not all questions are resistance … some are simply about people trying to understand and get on board. Using the wrong model, or the right model in the wrong ways, will generate the wrong tactics and set progress back.
- On understanding different kinds of strategic imperatives and how people respond, look to “The Real Story of the Burning Platform” and the FOUR types. Don’t be fooled by naïve blowhards who claim that the burning platform is wrong … they don’t understand it’s background, it’s development or application.
VUCA Strategies and how to implement them – Actions that are innovative, iterative and powered by capabilities not processes
Models developed in the industrial age reflect a slower, more linear progression of change and strategies to win – and a focus on process. Today’s information age is radically different – we should not be using old tools on new problems.
The nature of change, and therefore our tactics for how to help people through, are far more dynamic, resulting from actions and reactions of many variables in the organization and marketplace. The linear processes built for the industrial age, and I include most project management and change management approaches here, will not suffice – in fact they will further slow you down. Yes, you need rigor and oversight but you need it faster.
Yes, many Agile methodologies have been developed over the past 20 years and have great value. However, dropping them into your industrial-age culture is a recipe for failure (of the methodology and the strategies you apply them too). Doubt that? Take some of your Agile team members out for coffee and ask them what their biggest challenges are … hint: it’s not the work itself.
The biggest opportunity for ensuring the success of VUCA strategies is not implementing Agile it’s becoming agile. This requires developing agile mindsets, capabilities and approaches. Lots of great thought leadership on this (I have shared my favorites here).
On developing capabilities to accelerate individual, team and organizational performance I look to The Agile Model ® developed by Dr. Nick Horney and Tom O’Shea. This is why I invested two years in studying the approach and the case studies and in becoming a certified facilitator for the Programs.
The model of 18 capabilities and the diagnostic tools to help leaders and teams assess “what are our strengths?” and how can we leverage those while we work on our weaknesses. This generates immediate insights and sets the path for the ‘flywheel” of improvement. The “ah has” and light bulb moments that occur during the many case studies and interactive exercises bring the model to life. I do believe that we walk out of that Program a little changed – open to seeing change differently and to operating with more agility.
The beauty of this is that when applies with a leadership team implementing VUCA strategies there are immediate applications and improvements.
There are many other brilliant VUCA models that can augment this approach. The more we learn and incorporate (within reason and over time) the stronger and faster the evolution. As an example, I follow Dr. Jen Frahm and Lena Ross’s Agile Change Leadership.
Take the challenge
So here is the bottom line ….
- Are you applying your best critical thinking?
- Do you see the difference between foundational, perennial principles and environmental conditions (eg economies, technologies, cultures, processes)
- Have you re-assessed your “toolkit” to help people traverse the change experience? Are you sure your tool kit is up-to-date?
- Are you unlearning?
- Are you ready to love your favorite old models for what they are AND ask yourself if they are still relevant enough? No harm in putting them on a shelf and admiring their previous effectiveness as you can move onto to more relevant and effective approaches.
- Are you evolving?
- Sometimes I catch myself rhyming off a colloquialism and a red flag goes up in my brain … “is that still true?” Sometimes it is … sometimes not so much.
- How agile are you?
- That’s the question really, isn’t it? Maybe you should check out the Agile Model as an experiment?
Well, if you hung in this long then “Bravo to you!”. Thank you for sharing this learning journey. I’d be interested to know your thoughts and reactions.
Change Whisperer by www.gailseverini.com is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.