Organisational Change Management Volume 2

Ideas for Enacting Change When not in a Senior Position of Authority

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. Four options for people seeking to enact change but who are not in senior positions of authority:

- create a holding environment

- control the temperature

- set the pace

- show the future

a) Create a holding environment

- this is a space formed by a network of relationships within which people can tackle tough, sometimes divisive, issues without playing a part. It enables participants to direct creative energy towards working the conflicts and containing passions that could easily boil over

- a holding environment will vary from situation to situation. For example, it may be an off-site retreat; a shared language and common history; having a deep trust in a respected institution and its authority structure; it may be characterized by a clear set of rules and processes that allow minority voices to be heard without disruption, etc.

"...in a holding environment......people feel safe enough to address problems that are difficult, not only because they require ingenuity, but also because they strain relationships.....all social relationships have limits; therefore one of the greatest challenges......is keeping stress at a productive level. Managing conflict (and your own safety) requires you to monitor all groups' tolerance for taking heat..."

Ronald A. Heifetz et al, 2002

b) Control the temperature

"...changing the status quo generates tension and produces heat by allowing to surface the conflicts and challenging organisational culture. It's a deep and natural human impulse to seek order and calm......can tolerate only so much distress before recoiling..."

Ronald A. Heifetz et al, 2002

- there are 2 tasks in controlling the temperature, ie the "span of productive range of distress"

i) to raise the heat enough so that people sit up, pay attention and deal with the real threats and challenges facing them. Without some distress, there is no incentive for them to change anything. The temperature can be constructively raised in 2 ways

- bring attention to the hard issues and keep it focused there

- let people feel the weight of responsibility for tackling those issues

ii) to lower the temperature when necessary to reduce a counterproductive level of tension. There are many ways to reduce the heat as most organisations are more practised at cooling things down rather than intentionally heating them up. For example, creating shared successes and problem solving processes; breaking down the problem into its parts; reframing the problem in a less threatening way; speaking to people's fears; using humour; finding an excuse for a break, etc

c) Pace the work

"...When you lead people through difficult change, they are taken on an emotional roller coaster because you are asking them to relinquish something - a belief, a value, a behaviour - that they hold dear. People can understand only so much change at any one time. You risk revolt, and your own survival, by trying to do too much, too soon......change involves a loss, and people can only sustain so much loss at any one time......Pacing typically requires......to let their ideas and programs seep out a little at the time, so they can be absorbed slowly enough to be tested and accepted......how you pace the work depends on the difficulty of the issue..."

Ronald A. Heifetz et al, 2002

such as the tolerance and strength of the organisational relationships and the holding environment

d) Show them the future

"...to sustain momentum through a period of difficult change, you have to find ways to remind people of their orienting value - a positive vision - that makes the current angst worthwhile......by answering, in every possible way, the why question, you increase people's willingness to endure the hardships that come with a journey to a better place......revealing the future is an extremely useful way to mobilize......and yet avoid becoming the target of resistance..."

Ronald A. Heifetz et al, 2002

In summary

"...to lead people, we suggest you build structures of relationships to work tough issues, establishing norms that make passionate disagreement permissible. But keep your hands on the temperature controls. Don't provoke people too much at one time. Remember, your job is to orchestrate the conflict, not become it. You need to lead people to do the work that only they can do..."

Ronald A. Heifetz et al, 2002

 

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