Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 6, Issue 42;   October 18, 2006: Piling Change Upon Change: Management Credibility

Piling Change Upon Change: Management Credibility

by

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.

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.

Hoarfrost coating Autumn leaves

Hoarfrost coating Autumn leaves, the result of an early-season ice fog. Photo by Jeff Fontana, courtesy U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

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. Go to top Top  Next issue: What Makes a Good Question?  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!

For more on the Satir Change Model, see "Now We're in Chaos," Point Lookout for September 19, 2001, and "Change How You Change," Point Lookout for March 20, 2002.

Your comments are welcome

Would you like to see your comments posted here? rbrenXDqYOhHqYpuaYgrzner@ChacePvLnLHyBSdbkfgZoCanyon.comSend me your comments by email, or by Web form.

About Point Lookout

Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful, and that you'll consider recommending it to a friend.

Point Lookout is a free weekly email newsletter. Browse the archive of past issues. Subscribe for free.

Support Point Lookout by joining the Friends of Point Lookout, as an individual or as an organization.

Do you face a complex interpersonal situation? Send it in, anonymously if you like, and I'll give you my two cents.

Related articles

More articles on Organizational Change:

Willis Tower, ChicagoDon't Rebuild the Chrysler Building
When we undertake change, we're usually surprised at the effort and cost required. Much of this effort and cost is necessary because of the nature of the processes we're changing. What can we do differently to make change easier in the future?
What's in it for him?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.
A recently reclaimed property near Buffalo, New YorkThe True Costs of Cost-Cutting
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...
Baron Joseph Lister (1827-1912)Good Change, Bad Change: I
Change is all around. Some changes are welcome and some not, but when we distinguish good change from bad, we often get it wrong. Why?
A diagram of effects illustrating these two loops in the Restructuring-Fear CycleThe Restructuring-Fear Cycle: I
When enterprises restructure, reorganize, downsize, outsource, spin off, relocate, lay off, or make other adjustments, they usually focus on financial health. Often ignored is the fear these changes create in the minds of employees. Sadly, that fear can lead to the need for further restructuring.

See also Organizational Change for more related articles.

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

Puppies waiting intently for a shot at the treatComing June 27: Interrupting Others in Meetings Safely: I
In meetings we sometimes feel the need to interrupt others to offer a view or information, or to suggest adjusting the process. But such interruptions carry risk of offense. How can we interrupt others safely? Available here and by RSS on June 27.
A VoiceStation 500 speakerphone by PolycomAnd on July 4: Interrupting Others in Meetings Safely: II
When we feel the need to interrupt someone who's speaking in a meeting, to offer a view or information, we would do well to consider (and mitigate) the risk of giving offense. Here are some techniques for interrupting the speaker in situations not addressed by the meeting's formal process. Available here and by RSS on July 4.

Coaching services

I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrentIQvGzqfFyJUAFLgner@ChacIflvFwZXhEFIxcUaoCanyon.com or (650) 787-6475, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.

Get the ebook!

Past issues of Point Lookout are available in six ebooks:

Reprinting this article

Are you a writer, editor or publisher on deadline? Are you looking for an article that will get people talking and get compliments flying your way? You can have 500 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info

Public seminars

The Race to the South Pole: The Power of Agile Development
On 14The Race to the Pole: An Application of Agile Development December 1911, four men led by Roald Amundsen reached the South Pole. Thirty-five days later, Robert F. Scott and four others followed. Amundsen had won the race to the pole. Amundsen's party returned to base on 26 January 1912. Scott's party perished. As historical drama, why this happened is interesting enough. Lessons abound. Among the more important lessons are those that demonstrate the power of the agile approach to project management and product development. Read more about this program. Here's a date for this program:

The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
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.

Follow Rick

Send email or subscribe to one of my newsletters Follow me at LinkedIn Follow me at Twitter, or share a tweet Follow me at Google+ or share a post Subscribe to RSS feeds Subscribe to RSS feeds
The message of Point Lookout is unique. Help get the message out. Please donate to help keep Point Lookout available for free to everyone.
Technical Debt for Policymakers BlogMy blog, Technical Debt for Policymakers, offers resources, insights, and conversations of interest to policymakers who are concerned with managing technical debt within their organizations. Get the millstone of technical debt off the neck of your organization!
Go For It: Sometimes It's Easier If You RunBad boss, long commute, troubling ethical questions, hateful colleague? Learn what we can do when we love the work but not the job.
303 Tips for Virtual and Global TeamsLearn how to make your virtual global team sing.
101 Tips for Managing ChangeAre you managing a change effort that faces rampant cynicism, passive non-cooperation, or maybe even outright revolt?
101 Tips for Effective MeetingsLearn how to make meetings more productive — and more rare.
Exchange your "personal trade secrets" — the tips, tricks and techniques that make you an ace — with other aces, anonymously. Visit the Library of Personal Trade Secrets.