organizational change
POSTED : November 25, 2014

Many people would agree that driving organizational change can feel like a challenge. But with clear understanding of the system in place, individuals within any organization can lead the way to more innovative, agile thinking.

The last post covered insights from Dave Gray on the first “mode” for organizational change: how to study the components, people, and opportunities that will help or hinder agile thinking. Once you have a better picture of those pieces (the “game”), you’ll be in a better position for the next two modes of organizational change.

When you’ve explored and studied the system thoroughly, you’re ready to act.

Mode 2: tinker with the system

Shape a new game

From within the context of the existing game, try a shift in your own behavior. A few suggestions Dave shared:

  • Explore the risk/reward equation and use it as a space to find opportunity.
  • Shift the daily context, such as dressing differently or using a different kind of language to express ideas.
  • Draw instead of write, as it puts concepts into a different medium, and may attract a different type of dialogue.

Act in small ways

Demonstrate to potential collaborators and allies that there is indeed a game that can be changed. The results may not be direct, but can be powerful over time. Tips to keep in mind:

  • Try one small thing and see what happens. Small actions can have a big impact within a system.
  • Show people that you’re committed: Ask the people involved in a system about their hopes, dreams, frustrations.
  • Practice story listening and make connections with this information.
  • Demonstrate through your actions that you’ve heard people.

Positive deviance

Make connections within the system for the benefit of all. Recognize that one person’s constraint might be someone else’s resource, and look for new ways to connect problems to solutions. Remember the shift from objects to relationship interactions; relationships are the force for change. Make introductions to people who appear to have shared opportunity.

Mode 3: help the system become aware of itself

Create a safe space

Find a way to allay fear and stress, and allow people to see that their constraints may be in their own minds. Create either a mental or physical space for where ideas and issues can be discussed. This can be surprisingly simple, such as a place on the wall, or an offering of hospitality such as a moment sharing tea. Build trust through lunch-&-learns or other informal means, and build community by teaching that safe space can be earned over time.

See together

Think visually, and allow people to see your ideas. Share these ideas publicly, or try drawing pictures collaboratively. Hold theories loosely and look for patterns and anomalies. Lastly, don’t be afraid to try multiple theories and look for the dynamics of the system.

Play together/Dream together

Act as if it were true, regardless of the present circumstances. Moving ahead with confidence and an experimental mindset keeps the positive energy going. Core habits of a change agent:

  • Prototype possibilities and test theories.
  • Be open to unexpected results.
  • Socialize the learning within the organization.
  • Experiment with your own examples of positive deviance.
  • Amplify the good; if something works, what happens if we do it twice as much, three times? Amplify until it stops bringing rewards.

With this set of guidelines, one can begin to see how individual actors can indeed drive organizational change by stepping into the “trickster” mentality. The challenge now is to find a pair of rabbit ears in the right size and start wearing them to work—and celebrate what comes next.

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