Hello everybody. It has been a long time since I posted here regularly and I appreciate your patience in staying with me.
The last couple of years I have really immersed myself deep in execution of large scale strategy. I do believe that actual practice is the real, and most ruthless, test of our hypotheses.
These experiences have caused me to shift my practice quite extensively and you will see that reflected in the new website here and in this content of this blog.
The blog remains a learning journal – an exploration and sharing of what I am learning and using. In it I aim to “work out loud” a bit – to share some observations, learnings, resources and to simply work through some thinking that is complex to me.
I hope it has some value for you and if you share these questions I hope that we can converse through the comments.
What is the shift all about?
Over the years, as I have studied and practiced in this space, I have continued to feel that while we can help organizations do better at individual projects what we typically do is insufficient to create the kinds of shifts that most of our organizations really need.
Like many, I started off looking for a process, a silver bullet of sorts, to help organizations implement projects and programs – to help leaders and their teams fully adopt the changes and to achieve the business value in the business case. And I have had variable success with this approach.
I have learned several methodologies and collected many tools. I have raised my game as a practitioner and developed many skills and capabilities. What I have come to believe is that what we really need is a paradigm shift.
It may seem trite to say “change is changing” – many say this often. Is it really true tho? I usually work in national or global established organizations (often financial services) that have a broad client base, relatively low turn over and often regulated (which further dampens competitive threats). Even these organizations are ramping up change:
- The pace of change is increasing … More projects per year, more PMOs, more change practitioners
- The types of change tend to be increasingly transformative, ie deeper shifts to the way that leaders and staff think about the work and the ways that they are required to operate
- These shifts go so far as to require culture shifts in teams and teams of teams if not the whole enterprise
- These changes range from the opportunities and operational changes presented by big data, privacy, cyber security, deepening customer centricity, right-sizing operations in real time, etc.
- These changes must be realized all while running the business and through increasingly leaning staff (often through a wider network of partners and subcontractors who must also be engaged in the changes)
So broader and deeper change spread further into the value chain – this is fascinating stuff … and treacherous.
What is not working as well?
What we typically do, as practitioners and organizations, is approach change through projects and programs using methodologies that align with Project Management. We define the Current State and the Future State and the Case for Change and we design interventions that will help leaders and employees move from Point A to Point B. And while there is a lot of value in this approach, it is increasingly outpaced by the speed of change.
There is increasing pressure to deliver faster, to deliver in Agile frameworks, but our processes and our artifacts that were conceived in linear mindsets hang us up. We struggle to produce our documents adequately in “sprints” and we struggle with speed, using out of date analyse-document-review cycles.
So we try to speed up by leaning our methodologies by telling ourselves that we will track with the team and run more iterations to produce our deliverables. This just creates more churn.
What is not changing?
Humans are wired to respond the change in very predictable ways – neuroscience is helping us to realize this. Teams and organizations are made up of … humans. So we really must come to terms with the fact that faster project processes do not effectively help people to adopt change – in fact they can have the very opposite effect. It is not necessary to have a deep attachment to the “change curve” of any variety to know that forcing change on people is really not optimal. Faster project processes that dump more change on ‘targets’ only pushes the problem to the front of the house.
All the research we now have points to the benefits of engaging people in designing change. But how do you engage all of the stakeholders in all of the changes? Yes, this is similarly noble and difficult enough to daunt executives into paralysis.
Approaches and techniques like Agile Change Management, XLR8 (Kotter), Open Space facilitation and Whole System Transformation tempt us with their potential.
Culture shift aspirations to become more collaborative and transparent seem to be gaining momentum.
I see more conversations on Agile Organizations and Teal Organizations … all these have my attention.
Where I have had greater success is in incorporating more system changes in the large programs I work on, ie including interventions designed to shift the way that leaders, influencers and employees think about this change and about change in general. This can be as simple as incorporating “work out loud” practices and asking leaders to do a bit more of this, to making work visible (accessible and memorable) by posting content on walls, to engaging staff in actual work flow design change. As we think about modifying organization design we also talk about possible roles and interactions that can introduce “flex”.
The first shift is the mindset shift in practitioners to consider “what if”.
That’s what we are going to do more of in the weeks and months to come here. I hope you will participate actively by conversing – both to me and to each other. It takes a community to figure out this kind of complexity. Let’s figure it out by working out loud together here.
For the first time in a long time I am more optimistic about the possibilities that we really can help organizations to excel and even to begin OutPerforming (more on that as well).
Change Whisperer by www.gailseverini.com is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.