Written by Caroline Lavigne on February 22, 2020.
The famous American architect and systems theorist Buckminster Fuller said that “you never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” When it comes to organizational change initiatives, centering your people makes this insight even more relevant. This gets us here: “engage and inspire people to co-create a new model that makes the existing model requiring change obsolete”.
Acknowledging the clichéd but true insight that “change is the only constant,” organizations need to develop a workforce that is willing and able to evolve toward new and better models. In a change-driven reality, the goal should not be to push change onto people and encourage them to adopt it, but rather the goal should be to shape an engaging and collaborative culture, where the people initiate and own constant improvement.
Our change-driven reality does mean that organizations must constantly maneuver multi-level changes. Here, I offer a navigational metaphor for implementing different types of change, including consistent, constant, evolving, and transformational change. This can be used to guide organizational leaders in first identifying the type of change required, and then inspiring their workforces to co-create responses to change.
- Consistent change is persistent change for betterment; it’s the combined efforts of people invested in ongoing improvement, often made possible with a resilient workplace culture.
This change is the needle in the compass that is constantly micro-shifting to point due north toward the destination (i.e., the desired future state).
- HOW: Provide an environment (structured as required) that encourages employees to identify, then test consistent improvements to the model. This will surface efficiencies while helping to shape an engaged and motivated workforce that feels empowered.
- Constant change is the continuous adjustments and course corrections required to effortlessly adapt and pivot when faced with opportunities and risks.
This change is the action of steering the wheel (i.e., making decisions) to adapt to the curves and signals on the change journey.
- HOW: Ensure a psychologically safe environment where employees feel comfortable raising instances where adjustments are required, as much with their peers as with their leaders.
- Evolving change is the change that is required to adapt to the evolving external conditions of the journey.
This change is the GPS recalculating, maybe due to a missed turn or an unforeseen construction zone, to ensure realignment on the journey towards the destination.
- HOW: Engage people in co-creating the journey towards the destination, resulting in shared awareness, buy-in and ownership in the future state.
- Transformational change is the organizational learning that occurs within the organizations’ practices, processes and culture, as a result of the other active changes.
Transformational change is like the Artificial Intelligence (AI) that enables a GPS to be more responsive and adaptive based on learnings from user behaviours.
- HOW: Beyond the continuous learning and evolution of the workforce gained through the other change levels, investing in the learning and development of the people, especially in softer skills that bolster abilities to effectively communicate and collaborate, to ensure a sustainable resilient culture and workforce.
To quote Thomas Edison: “There is always a better way!” So, the key question is: What can your organization do to create an environment and a culture where people desire and seek constant improvement? Studies do show that desire is created through engagement, and employee engagement is much higher in psychologically safe and inclusive environments.
Organizations must consider their current state, current workplace environment, and current culture before embarking on an initiative to transform their change culture. Working with organizations, we meet leadership and people where they are, to support them on their journey to where they want to go. If aspects of this evolving state concept are of interest to you, please reach out. It would be my pleasure to have a discussion with you and help you figure out where you are and what you will need to move forward on your journey.