I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the nature of what it takes to create and respond to meaningful change these days. Yesterday, I brainstormed the following after reading an article by John Kotter, one of the most respected culture change experts. How would you modify what I’ve written? What would you add?
In a VUCA world (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous)*, leaders must be able to adapt to — and stimulate — continuous organizational change. Older procedures, labeled “change management,” often represent outmoded, top-down strategies for gaining “buy-in” and overcoming “resistance” to discrete initiatives. These older methods, which aim primarily to control change, most often do not result in shared, long-term ownership and engagement, nor heightened readiness and flexibility in the face of continuous, emergent change – which is what the VUCA world is all about. Worse, older change management methods can embed cynicism and workplace fears, making an organization even less resilient.
Change leadership, by comparison, is associated not only with transforming the work, but also transforming the culture. The ultimate goal of change leadership is the creation of a truly generative, rather than merely reactive organization. There are six core performance dimensions.
Six Performance Dimensions
1. Understanding the nature of adaptive challenges.
Adaptive challenges are urgent ones that have no precedent and cannot be addressed via any single individual’s current expertise or experience. Solutions depend on combining and enlarging skills while marshaling energy to convert change anxiety into positive growth.
2. Creating a shared vision, social meaning and context for change.
This includes collaboratively defining required changes, examining human impacts, and exploring the underlying purposes of change. In turn, this work drives the shifts in relationships needed to achieve a common vision.
3. Courageously embracing feedback about leaders and systems.
The status quo is defined by the strengths of the organization but also by the problems that people inside and outside the organization are living with. Fostering change means helping an organization address what is already problematic and chaotic from the inside out, not just adding programmatic “solutions” meant to increase effectiveness or efficiency.
4. Learning from collaborative experiments, and applying that learning. Change happens when people design and try out their inventions, form their own change process, and learn how to keep making adjustments in a continuing spiral of knowledge, action and shared discovery.
5. Integrating personal development.
Evolution happens both externally and internally. There must be an intimate connection between the leader’s own growth, others’ growth, and the organization’s ongoing transformation. Truly generative organizations incorporate supportive communities and learning relationships that join higher level, integrative thinking with the long-term development of people.
6. Raising the level of conjoint awareness.
Individuals, teams, and the organization as a whole must rise through meta-conversations and dialogue to examine their deeper patterns, inter-connections, and the dynamics of their own and others’ experiences. This awareness serves as the ultimate foundation and shared readiness for change.
What say you?
* I first found the term, VUCA, which apparently comes from the Army, in this Center for Creative Leadership white paper by Nick Petrie.
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