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

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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More articles on Organizational Change:

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When we change organizational culture, we often stumble over unexpected obstacles. Sometimes the tangle can be so frustrating that we want to start the company over again. Here are some tips for managing large-scale cultural change.
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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.
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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.
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When things repeatedly "fall through the cracks," we're not doing the best we can. How can we deal with the problem of repeatedly failing to do what we need to do? How can we patch up the cracks?
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Rumor management practices in organizations haven't kept up with rumor propagation technology. Rumors that propagate by digital means — cyber rumors — have longer lifetimes, spread faster, are more credible, and are better able to reinforce each other.

See also Organizational Change for more related articles.

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

The lies inside the truthComing May 25: On Reporting Noncompliance
Regulating compliance with process design in organizations requires monitoring process usage. Typically, process monitors depend on reports by process participants. In blame-oriented cultures, fear of retribution can limit what these reports contain. Available here and by RSS on May 25.
Bottom: Aerial view of the Forth Bridge, Edinburgh, Scotland. Top: Inside the Forth Rail Bridge, from a ScotRail 158 on August 22, 1999.And on June 1: Mental Accounting and Technical Debt
In many organizations, technical debt has resisted efforts to control it. We've made important technical advances, but full control might require applying some results of the behavioral economics community, including a concept they call mental accounting. Available here and by RSS on June 1.

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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.

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