Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 6, Issue 42;   October 18, 2006: Piling Change Upon Change: Management Credibility

Piling Change Upon Change: Management Credibility

by

When leaders want to change organizational directions, processes, or structures, some questions arise: How much change is too much change? Here's a look at one constraint: the risk to management credibility.

Now that he was under fire from all around the conference table, Andre decided to call a halt. "I don't have an answer for that one," he said. "But I'll find out by next week why this isn't working. I think we should wait till then."

Mercifully, Lynn, the chair, came to his rescue. "OK," she said, "let's pick this up next week when Andre has more information." Turning to the scribe, she asked, "What's next?"

With help from Lynn, Andre is dealing with one of the consequences of piling Change upon Change. Chaos has set in, and Andre isn't sure why things aren't working as they were supposed to.

Hoarfrost coating Autumn leaves

Hoarfrost coating Autumn leaves, the result of an early-season ice fog. Photo by Jeff Fontana, courtesy US Bureau of Land Management.

When organizational leaders feel the need for urgent change, they sometimes initiate programs that overlap or follow one another very closely. But when they do, they risk eroding management credibility.

When an organization changes, its people must choose between exiting the organization and coping with the change. Typically, most do cope. Coping with change entails traversing a path described by the Satir Change Model, among others. It's a path all humans know too well.

According to the Satir Change Model, change begins when a Foreign Element disrupts the Old Status Quo and leads to a temporary state of Chaos. In Chaos, employees are uncertain about what will happen next, and many yearn for the Old Status Quo. But as a way out of Chaos, returning to what once was isn't viable. Change is a rocky road.
There are stops, starts,
and lots of backtracking.

To move out of Chaos, employees must find a Transforming Idea that points the way to a New Status Quo. During a period of Integration and Practice, they integrate the Transforming Idea into their view of the world, and practice with the new ways and ideas, eventually reaching a New Status Quo.

It's a rocky road. There are stops, starts, and lots of backtracking. But when we add a new change effort somewhere in the middle of one that's ongoing, the trouble really begins.

During the period of Integration and Practice, employees must accept management's Transforming Idea on trust. They try to use the suggested approaches as a way out of the Chaos.

A second change effort starts with a second Foreign Element (FE2), which sets off another period of Chaos. If FE2 arrives during Integration and Practice from the first change process, people can't always distinguish between the Chaos of the second change and outright failure of the first. And this can lead some to feel that the Transforming Idea of the first change (TI1) isn't working. Management's credibility is therefore at risk.

A safer approach is to either bundle both changes together, or let time pass between them — enough to let people see that TI1 actually works. You can change an organization as fast as possible only if you change it slowly enough. Go to top Top  Next issue: What Makes a Good Question?  Next Issue

For more on the Satir Change Model, see "Now We're in Chaos," Point Lookout for September 19, 2001, and "Change How You Change," Point Lookout for March 20, 2002.

101 Tips for Managing ChangeIs your organization embroiled in Change? Are you managing a change effort that faces rampant cynicism, passive non-cooperation, or maybe even outright revolt? Read 101 Tips for Managing Change to learn how to survive, how to plan and how to execute change efforts to inspire real, passionate support. Order Now!

Your comments are welcome

Would you like to see your comments posted here? rbrenBpxwEqyKrhudaVzOner@ChaciSBiUhKuNKVDgbNOoCanyon.comSend me your comments by email, or by Web form.

About Point Lookout

Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful, and that you'll consider recommending it to a friend.

Point Lookout is a free weekly email newsletter. Browse the archive of past issues. Subscribe for free.

Support Point Lookout by joining the Friends of Point Lookout, as an individual or as an organization.

Do you face a complex interpersonal situation? Send it in, anonymously if you like, and I'll give you my two cents.

Related articles

More articles on Organizational Change:

Willis Tower, ChicagoDon't Rebuild the Chrysler Building
When we undertake change, we're usually surprised at the effort and cost required. Much of this effort and cost is necessary because of the nature of the processes we're changing. What can we do differently to make change easier in the future?
A German Shepherd in a calmer momentWhen Fear Takes Hold
Leading an organization through a rough patch, we sometimes devise solutions that are elegant, but counterintuitive or difficult to explain. Even when they would almost certainly work, a simpler fix might be more effective.
A polar bear, feeding, on landLetting Go of the Status Quo: the Debate
Before we can change, we must want to change, or at least accept that we must change. And somewhere in there, we must let go of some part of what is now in place — the status quo. In organizations, the decision to let go involves debate.
Philipse Manor Hall State Historic Site in Yonkers, New YorkGood Change, Bad Change: II
When we distinguish good change from bad, we often get it wrong: we favor things that would harm us, and shun things that would help. When we do get it wrong, we're sometimes misled by social factors.
Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court Frank MurphyThe Passion-Professionalism Paradox
Changing the direction of a group or a company requires passion and professionalism, two attributes often in tension. Here's one possible way to resolve that tension.

See also Organizational Change for more related articles.

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

Probably not the kind of waiting we have in mind hereComing July 26: Strategic Waiting
Time can be a tool. Letting time pass can be a strategy for resolving problems or getting out of tight places. Waiting is an often-overlooked strategic option. Available here and by RSS on July 26.
Srinivasa RamanujanAnd on August 2: Linear Thinking Bias
When assessing the validity of problem solutions, we regard them as more valid if their discovery stories are logical, than we would if they're less than logical. This can lead to erroneous assessments, because the discovery story is not the solution. Available here and by RSS on August 2.

Coaching services

I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenbjeSbYodcLZFEbGUner@ChactCpiBoGQIufpdEDGoCanyon.com or (617) 491-6289, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.

Get the ebook!

Past issues of Point Lookout are available in six ebooks:

Reprinting this article

Are you a writer, editor or publisher on deadline? Are you looking for an article that will get people talking and get compliments flying your way? You can have 500 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info

Public seminars

Creating High Performance Virtual Teams
Many Creating High Performance Virtual Teamspeople experience virtual teams as awkward, slow, and sometimes frustrating. Even when most team members hail from the same nation or culture, and even when they all speak the same language, geographic dispersion or the presence of employees from multiple enterprises is often enough to exclude all possibility of high performance. The problem is that we lead, manage, and support virtual teams in ways that are too much like the way we lead, manage, and support co-located teams. In this program, Rick Brenner shows you how to change your approach to leading, managing, and supporting virtual teams to achieve high performance using Simons' Four Spans model of high performance. Read more about this program. Here's a date for this program:

The Race to the South Pole: Ten Lessons for Project Managers
On 14The Race to the Pole: Ten Lessons for Project Managers December 1911, four men led by Roald Amundsen reached the South Pole. Thirty-five days later, Robert F. Scott and four others followed. Amundsen had won the race to the pole. Amundsen's party returned to base on 26 January 1912. Scott's party perished. As historical drama, why this happened is interesting enough, but to organizational leaders, business analysts, project sponsors, and project managers, the story is fascinating. Lessons abound. Read more about this program. Here's a date for this program:

The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
Many The Power Affect: How We Express Personal Powerpeople who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.

Follow Rick

Send email or subscribe to one of my newsletters Follow me at LinkedIn Follow me at Twitter, or share a tweet Follow me at Google+ or share a post Subscribe to RSS feeds Subscribe to RSS feeds
The message of Point Lookout is unique. Help get the message out. Please donate to help keep Point Lookout available for free to everyone.
21st Century Business TravelAre your business trips long chains of stressful misadventures? Have you ever wondered if there's a better way to get from here to there relaxed and refreshed? First class travel is one alternative, but you can do almost as well (without the high costs) if you know the tricks of the masters of 21st-century e-enabled business travel…
Go For It: Sometimes It's Easier If You RunBad boss, long commute, troubling ethical questions, hateful colleague? Learn what we can do when we love the work but not the job.
303 Tips for Virtual and Global TeamsLearn how to make your virtual global team sing.
101 Tips for Managing ChangeAre you managing a change effort that faces rampant cynicism, passive non-cooperation, or maybe even outright revolt?
101 Tips for Effective MeetingsLearn how to make meetings more productive — and more rare.
Exchange your "personal trade secrets" — the tips, tricks and techniques that make you an ace — with other aces, anonymously. Visit the Library of Personal Trade Secrets.