Everything changed on September Eleventh, and we're still learning the meaning of "everything." People working on projects, especially those that involve air travel, are now struggling with Change. Among models of Change, the Satir Change Model, developed by Virginia Satir, stands out for me as especially useful. It describes how we respond to change, using six elements:
- Old Status Quo
- The initial state of the system, before the change cycle begins. Example: September 10.
- Foreign Element
- The event, incident, or new information that disrupts the Old Status Quo. Example: the events of September 11.
- The state of confusion and disruption that persists following the recognition of the Foreign Element. Example: where we are now — we haven't yet adjusted to the new situation.
- Transforming Idea
- The realization or concept that takes us from Chaos toward a new way of operating. We probably don't yet have the Transforming Idea for the change cycle resulting from the events of September 11.
- Integration and Practice
- A period of assimilation of the Transforming Idea, when we practice ways of incorporating it into our operations.
- New Status Quo
- The Chaos of change
can create stress,
- After we've integrated the Transforming Idea into our operations, a New Status Quo begins, in which we continue to enhance performance.
For many of us right now, after the Foreign Element that arrived on September 11, disruptions persist:
- Loss of key personnel, plant, equipment, and communications infrastructure
- Business disruption
- Unwillingness of staff to travel by air
- Restricted travel budgets
- Reductions in flight availability
- Increased inconvenience in traveling by air
These consequences become Foreign Elements themselves, with new change cycles of their own. The Satir Change Model provides a useful guide for dealing with them. I'll focus for now on Chaos, where most of us are right now.
- When in Chaos, acknowledge it
- Recognize that you're in Chaos, and that most people are under stress. Watch for signs of fatigue and erratic performance, and give people time to rest and to share their concerns. Use Temperature Readings to help people vent. See "Take Regular Temperature Readings," Point Lookout for August 29, 2001.
- Recognize the tug of Old Status Quo
- Chaos is uncomfortable. Many of us don't like it, and try to resurrect the Old Status Quo. Let go. Accept the change, and know that there's no going back. For example, if air travel now takes much longer, adjust project schedules — and employee compensation — accordingly.
- In Chaos, make no major decisions or commitments
- While we must make decisions, beware of making long-term decisions. When the Transforming Idea arrives, it will certainly provide better guidance than we now have. For example, avoid committing to a new project involving air travel.
- Watch for the Transforming Idea
- The Transforming Idea can come from anywhere — any level of your organization, even a competitor. Be open to ideas from all directions and all employees.
Chaos is not a bad thing. It just is. To manage through it, we must first accept it. Perhaps this is what Dorothy knew when, as she entered the Land of Oz for the first time, she said, "Toto, I have a feeling that we're not in Kansas anymore." Top Next Issue
Is 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!
For more on the Satir Change Model, see "Change How You Change," Point Lookout for March 20, 2002, and "Piling Change Upon Change: Management Credibility," Point Lookout for October 18, 2006. For other examples of the effects of change-driven Chaos, see "The True Costs of Cost-Cutting," Point Lookout for January 30, 2008.
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More articles on Organizational Change:
- Conventional Foolishness
- Every specialization has a set of beliefs, often called "conventional wisdom." When these
beliefs are so obvious that they're unquestioned and even unnoticed, there's an opportunity to leap
ahead of the pack — by questioning the conventional wisdom.
- Comfortable Ignorance
- When we suddenly realize that what we've believed is wrong, or that what we've been doing won't work,
our fear and discomfort can cause us to persevere in our illusions. If we can get better at accepting
reality and dealing with it, we can make faster progress toward real achievement.
- When 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.
- Reactance and Micromanagement
- When we feel that our freedom at work is threatened, we sometimes experience urges to do what is forbidden,
or to not do what is required. This phenomenon — called reactance — might explain
some of the dynamics of micromanagement.
- How to Find Lessons to Learn
- When we conduct Lessons Learned sessions, how can we ensure that we find all the important lessons to
be learned? Here's one method.
See also Organizational Change for more related articles.
Although the Satir Change Model model was originally developed by Virginia Satir for managing change in individuals and family systems, it's no less valuable for managing change in the workplace. My program, "Managing in Fluid Environments," explores how to apply this model in situations where changes come along at such a rapid rate that the next change comes along before we reach the "New Status Quo" of the changes we're already dealing with. More about this program.
My program, "Changing How We Change: The Essence of Agility," focuses more intently on applications of the change model in a wide variety of situations at work, from the perspective of organizational agility. This point of view is especially valuable to people in organizations that use agile product development processes. By applying the Satir Change Model, and more recent developments from group psychology, we can substantially enhance an organization's ability to adapt to changing circumstances, and to transform itself to more competitive stances. More about this program.
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Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming February 26: Unintended Condescension: II
- Intentionally making condescending remarks is something most of us do only when we lose control. But anyone at any time can inadvertently make a remark that someone else experiences as condescending. We explored two patterns to avoid last time. Here are two more. Available here and by RSS on February 26.
- And on March 4: Workplace Remorse
- Remorse is an unpleasant emotion. But it need not be something we suppress or avoid. It can provide a path to a positive learning experience that adds meaning to life. Available here and by RSS on March 4.
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Many people 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.
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