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 U.S. 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? rbrenNQdTlMDRvQqfjXBNner@ChacekSFddTJRVscBwuSoCanyon.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:

Penguins look before they leapLook Before You Leap
When we execute complex organizational change, we sometimes create disasters. It's ironic that even in companies that test their products thoroughly, we rarely test organizational changes before we "roll them out." We need systematic methods for discovering problems before we execute change efforts. One approach that works well is the simulation.
No symbolWorkplace Taboos and Change
In the workplace, some things can't be discussed — they are taboo. When we're aware of taboos, we can choose when to obey them, and when to be more flexible. When we're unaware of them, they can limit our ability to change.
Winter dawn in BostonOn Beginnings
A new year has begun, and I'm contemplating beginnings. Beginnings can inspire, and sometimes lead to letdown when our hopes or expectations aren't met. How can we handle beginnings more powerfully?
The robotic explorer OpportunityDefinitions of Insanity
When leaders try to motivate organizational change, they often resort to clever sloganeering. One of the most commonly used slogans is a definition of insanity. Unfortunately, that definition doesn't pass the sanity test.
David Addington, John Yoo, and Chris Schroeder testify before the U.S. House Judiciary CommitteeKinds of Organizational Authority: the Formal
A clear understanding of Power, Authority, and Influence depends on familiarity with the kinds of authority found in organizations. Here's Part I of a little catalog of authority classes.

See also Organizational Change for more related articles.

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

The United States curling team at the Torino Olympics in 2006Coming November 22: Motivation and the Reification Error
We commit the reification error when we assume, incorrectly, that we can treat abstract constructs as if they were real objects. It's a common error when we try to motivate people. Available here and by RSS on November 22.
A human marionetteAnd on November 29: Manipulators Beware
When manipulators try to manipulate others, they're attempting to unscrupulously influence their targets to decide or act in some way the manipulators prefer. But some targets manage to outwit their manipulators. Available here and by RSS on November 29.

Coaching services

I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenvtUsmdVIYLzWZgCXner@ChacceOqHRxvoSFchzJKoCanyon.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

Ten Project Management Fallacies: The Power of Avoiding Hazards
Most Ten Project Management Fallaciesof what we know about managing projects is useful and effective, but some of what we know "just ain't so." Identifying the fallacies of project management reduces risk and enhances your ability to complete projects successfully. Even more important, avoiding these traps can demonstrate the value and power of the project management profession in general, and your personal capabilities in particular. In this program we describe ten of these beliefs. There are almost certainly many more, but these ten are a good start. We'll explore the situations where these fallacies are most likely to expose projects to risk, and suggest techniques for avoiding them. 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.