Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 4, Issue 29;   July 21, 2004: The Ties that Bind

The Ties that Bind

by

Changing anything in an organization reveals how it's connected to its people, to its processes, to its facilities, and to the overall context. Usually, these connections reach out much further into the organization than we imagine.

As he entered the lobby, Matteo waved to Louise, who stood and met him at the revolving door. He passed through it and she followed. As she emerged into the sun, he turned toward her and asked, "Usual loop?" She nodded. Their walks had become more frequent since the Conversion Tour began, and they'd settled into a routine.

Masks of Tragedy and ComedyThen she added, "But for variety, let's reverse direction." They did.

The Conversion Tour was a series of talks they'd been giving to the groups most affected by the new HR software. The tour hadn't been going well.

They turned the corner and headed for the garden behind Building 11. Matteo began, "I knew we'd meet resistance, but I thought we'd just talk them out of it."

Louise was more optimistic. "We will," she said. "We just need better arguments."

Sadly, even though rationality is important, it isn't enough. Emotions count. To facilitate change, you have to deal with three key questions.

How did we come to be here?
Usually, things are the way they are because something is keeping them there. If you've ever tried to keep a process in place you've probably witnessed "process drift." Uncontrolled processes gradually evolve.
Stable processes are controlled processes. Before you try to change a stable process, understand what's been stabilizing it, because you'll probably have to deal with those forces as you deploy the new process.
What's it like to be in this place?
Before you try to
change a stable process,
understand what keeps
it stable
Like most experiences, living in the status quo is both appealing and troubling. Often we learn to ignore what we don't like, or we make adjustments and allowances. We learn to live with discomfort.
Reminding yourselves of what you find troublesome helps you leave it behind. But you probably don't want to leave all the good behind with it. Knowing what you like about the status quo helps you bring it along as you change to something new.
Where would you like to go from here?
If we want to make things better, it helps to know not only what we're looking for, and how we'd like to get there. Compare these two: (1) I want to meet the schedule by having enough people to do the work; and (2) I want to meet the schedule by having everyone work 70-hour weeks.
In making a change, search for a path that supports whatever you like about what you have already. Recognize that it's OK to leave some things behind if you don't really need them.

Attachment to the status quo provides much of the energy for what we call resistance. Yet, it can also save us from ourselves. It reveals what's good about the present, and what we might need to bring with us on our journey to the future. Use it as a guide to help you find the right path. Go to top Top  Next issue: Films Not About Project Teams: I  Next Issue

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!

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Related articles

More articles on Organizational Change:

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Among models of Change, the Satir Change Model has been especially useful for me. It describes how people and systems respond to change, and handles well situations like the one that affected us all on September Eleventh.
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Within a week after we've learned some new tool or technique, sometimes even less, we're back to doing things the old way. It's as if the training never even happened. Why? And what can we do to change this?
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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.
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The metaphor "trimming the fat" rests on the belief that some parts of the organization are expendable, and we can remove them with little impact on the remainder. Ah, if only things actually worked that way...

See also Organizational Change for more related articles.

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

Office equipment — or is it office toys?Coming July 25: Exploiting Functional Fixedness: II
A cognitive bias called functional fixedness causes difficulty in recognizing new uses for familiar things. It also makes for difficulty in recognizing devious uses of everyday behaviors. Here's Part II of a catalog of deviousness based on functional fixedness. Available here and by RSS on July 25.
Tim Murphy, official photo for the 112th CongressAnd on August 1: Strategies of Verbal Abusers
Verbal abuse at work has special properties, because it takes place in an environment in which verbal abuse is supposedly proscribed. Yet verbal abuse does happen at work. Here are three strategies abusers rely on to avoid disciplinary action. Available here and by RSS on August 1.

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101 Tips for Managing ChangeAre you managing a change effort that faces rampant cynicism, passive non-cooperation, or maybe even outright revolt?
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