Organisational Change Management Volume 1

Framework 14 Dance of Change

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Ten Challenges for Initiating Change

1 We don't have time for this stuff

The challenge of control of one's time. People involved in change initiatives need enough flexibility to devote time to reflection and practice

2 We have no help

The challenge of inadequate coaching, guidance and support for innovating groups, and ultimately developing internal resources for building capacity

3 This stuff isn't relevant

The challenge of relevance - making a case for change, articulating an appropriate business focus, and showing why new efforts, such as developing leading capacities, are relevant for business goals

4 They're not walking the talk

The challenge of leadership's clarity and consistency: the mismatch between behaviour and espoused values, especially for those championing change

The challenge of sustaining the momentum taking place within a pilot team as it achieves early success is the dominant challenge

5 This stuff is"..........(waste of time/out of control/very interesting, etc)

The challenge of fear and anxiety: concerns about exposure, vulnerability and inadequacy, triggered by conflict between increasing levels of candour and openness, and lower levels of trust among transitional team members

6 This stuff isn't working

The challenge of negative assessment of progress: the disconnection between the organisation's traditional ways of measuring success and measuring the achievements of a transitional team

7 We have the right way/they don't understand us

The challenge of isolation and arrogance, which appears when the "true believers" within the transitional group confront their "non-believer" counterparts outside the group; the transitional team and the rest of the organisational system consistently misinterpret each other. The challenge of redesigning and rethinking appear when change initiatives gain broader credibility and confront the established internal infrastructure and practices of the organisation.

8 Who is in charge of this stuff?

The challenge of providing governance structure, and a conflict between the transitional groups seeking greater autonomy, and the managers concerned about autonomy leading to chaos and internal fragmentation

9 We keep reinventing the wheel

The challenge of diffusion, the inability to transfer knowledge across organisational boundaries, making it difficult for people around the system to build upon each other's success

10 What are we here for and where are we going?

The challenge of organisational strategy and purpose: revitalising and rethinking the organisation's intended business focus, its contribution to its community, and to its identity

There is no guarantee of encountering all 10 challenges and there may be other challenges which appear as the transition process proceeds.

Successful initiatives for overcoming the challenges include the following elements

Support from the CEO (to meet the challenge of "walking the talk")

Research on the barriers created by clashing assumptions (the challenge of 'true believers')

Programs to recruit and develop new behaviours (the challenge of "no help")

Reducing barriers between different parts of the organisation ("diffusion")

Linking initiatives to business plans ("not relevant")

Goals and managerial accountability for progress ("measurement")

Gender-neutral rewards and promotions ("governance")

The stronger a learning or change initiative, the stronger the challenges seem to be because they represent natural, systematic responses to maintaining balances threatened by the initiative.

Questions for Considering the Challenges

1. Do I see the challenge in my situation? Am I aware of the set of forces that might be working counter to my efforts? (Many challenges to sustaining significant organisational change are not visible at first)

2. Do I understand the nature of the challenge? How do I tend to see it? Can I see it differently? How do others see me when this challenge is encountered? (These questions establish an orientation of inquiry toward important developments that we might otherwise see only as barriers blocking our path. Blaming barriers tends to evoke our most habitual, not our most creative, responses.)

3. Who can best help in understanding and dealing with this challenge? How might we help each other? (Many of us set out to conquer our problems single-handedly. But most of the time, these challenges do not impact on us as individuals. We can operate much more effectively by sharing our efforts with colleagues who are part of the same system, or whose abilities and interests complement our own.)

4. What would constitute effective action in dealing with this challenge? What capabilities might we want to develop? (All too often, people's actions represent reactions to circumstances rather than considered strategies aimed at deep aspirations. This question helps us to look strategically at our own actions over the next several years.)

5. How will I know if I am making progress? (No strategy is ever completely apt, so all courses of action need to be continually re-assessed. But most people, when acting with convictions, stop paying attention to what is going upon around them. Focused on moving forward, they lose sight of the effects they are having, especially on those on the periphery of the action. Because the challenges of profound change are complex, it is vital to keep our minds open to continually see things more clearly.)

(source: Peter Senge et al, 1999)


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