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.
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. Top Next Issue
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More articles on Organizational Change:
- Beyond WIIFM
- Probably the most widely used tactic of persuasion, "What's In It For Me," or WIIFM, can be
toxic to an organization. There's a much healthier approach that provides a competitive advantage to
organizations that use it.
- 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.
- Kinds of Organizational Authority: the Informal
- 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.
- When Change Is Hard: I
- Sometimes changing organizations goes smoothly. More often, it doesn't. Whatever methodology we use
— and there are many methodologies available — difficulties can arise. When change is hard,
what's happening? What makes change hard?
- Learning-Averse Organizations
- A learning-averse organization is one that seems constitutionally unwilling, if not unable, to learn
new and better ways of conducting its operations. Given the rapid pace of change in modern markets,
one wonders how they survive. Here's how.
See also Organizational Change for more related articles.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming November 30: Avoiding Speed Bumps: II
- Many of the difficulties we encounter when working together don't create long-term harm, but they do cause delays, confusion, and frustration. Here's Part II of a little catalog of tactics for avoiding speed bumps. Available here and by RSS on November 30.
- And on December 7: Reaching Agreements in Technological Contexts
- Reaching consensus in technological contexts presents special challenges. Problems can arise from interactions between the technological elements of the issue at hand, and the social dynamics of the group addressing that issue. Here are three examples. Available here and by RSS on December 7.
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