Organisational Change Management Volume 2


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. Organisations need to develop greater self-knowledge in the 3 critical areas, ie identity, information and relationships

i) identity, ie people need to be connected to the fundamental identity of an organisation

- who are we?

- what do we aspire to become?

- how should we be together?

ii) new information - people need to be connected to new information

- what else do we need to know?

- where is this new information found?

iii) relationships - people need to be able to reach beyond traditional boundaries and develop relationships with people anywhere in the system. This involves networking (see section on Peak-Performance Organisations at the start of Volume 1)

- who else needs to be there to do this work with us?

The above observations stress the importance of the values being shared by everyone in the organisation as the basis of identifying and developing identity.

. Meaning is linked with greater self-knowledge, and meaning involves an inner belief that you are in some sense meant to be here and that you can leave the world a better place. Remember: meaning is more important than size such as critical mass. Furthermore, people throughout the organisation need to decide whether the new meaning is available and desirable. They will change only if they believe that a new insight, a new idea or a new form helps them become more aware of who they are. If the work of change involves an entire organisation, then the search for a new meaning must be done collectively. This includes questioning assumptions and realising that people see things differently, ie the facts do not change, but perceptions do. We see the world through who we are because we use our own filters.

. Identity ‐ why is it so important?

"...When an organisation knows who it is, what its strengths are, and what it is trying to accomplish, it can respond intelligently to changes in its environment..."

Margaret Wheatley, 1999

. Whatever it decides to do is determined by a clear sense of self, not just because a new trend or market has appeared. The organisation does not get locked into supporting certain products or business units just because they exist, or by following every fad just because it shows up. The presence of a clear identity makes the organisation less vulnerable to its environment - it develops to decide how it will respond. Furthermore, it develops capacities to shape the environment, creating markets where none existed before.

. Beliefs and values are important

"...nearly all of us need to have some core beliefs. We differ from one another in how coherent these beliefs need to be, and how willing we are to consider changing them. The appeal of a strong sense of beliefs shared by all around one is clear; but especially in a pluralistic society, the costs involved in cutting oneself off from all other perspectives are patent..."

Howard Gardner, 2006

"...organisational visions and values act like energy fields and are the real forces that influence people's behaviour..."

Margaret Wheatley, 1999

An organisation will not change just by announcing new values. You move only gradually into being able to act in line with the new values and the governing principles such as guiding purposes, sincere values and organisational beliefs. To do this you need to have a greater awareness of how you are acting and to be more self-reflective than normal. You need to help each other, especially if people slip back into old habits. Senior executives need to have personal integrity to succeed. They need to genuinely "walk the talk", "practise what they preach" and "live out what they say". Furthermore, senior management needs to help the whole organisation look at itself, ie be reflective. Senior management members need to ensure that there is strong and evolving clarity about what the organisation is and where it wants to be, ie purpose, meaning and future direction. Recent research emphasises that strong and resilient organisations have strong values.

. Enactment is defined as participation by staff in the creation of their own organisational realities. The environment that the organisation worries about is put there by the organisation. We need to move away from arguing about who's right and who's wrong; instead we must focus our concerns

- on issues of effectiveness

- on reflective questions of what has happened

- what actions might have served us better, ie concentrate on what works best.

We need to be agile, flexible and intelligent to respond to the continuous climate of unpredictability

. Recurring behaviour ‐ themes and patterns. Everyone needs to be encouraged to look for recurring themes and behaviours in the whole system, and to stay away from examining only parts of the system. Simple questions that can be helpful are

- have we seen this before?

- what feels familiar here?

In order to see patterns, you have to step back from the problem and gain perspective, ie be like a helicopter hovering above. Pattern recognition requires a reflective and patient approach, especially as you are trying to see the world differently and there are many years of blindness to overcome.

The patterns of recurring behaviour (positive and negative), such as openness, secrecy, name calling, talking behind the backs of people, rules and regulations, etc at all levels of the organisation are sometimes called the "culture of the organisation".

(source: Margaret Wheatley, 1996)


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