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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More articles on Organizational Change:

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Understanding Power, Authority, and Influence depends on familiarity with the kinds of authority found in organizations. Here's Part II of a little catalog of authority, emphasizing informal authority.
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See also Organizational Change for more related articles.

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

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When projects overrun their budgets and/or schedules, we sometimes "downscope" to save time and money. The tactic can succeed — and fail. Three common anti-patterns involve politics, the sunk cost effect, and cognitive biases that distort estimates. Available here and by RSS on October 5.
A hummingbird feeding on the nectar of a flowerAnd on October 12: Downscoping Under Pressure: II
We sometimes "downscope" projects to bring them back on budget and schedule when they're headed for overruns. Downscoping doesn't always work. Cognitive biases like the sunk cost effect and confirmation bias can distort decisions about how to downscope. Available here and by RSS on October 12.

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