Timing The Wave

organisational development change management

(source: Lynch & Kordis, 1988)

The top left hand diagram is the ideal scenario for re-vitalisation, ie maximising gains from the first curve as the organisation/product/service, etc moves into the next curve. The other 3 diagrams each show less-than-ideal scenarios. Obviously the bottom right hand diagram illustrates the worst scenario, ie changing when on the downward slide with fewest resources available to handle the re-vitalization. Usually this scenario involves "knee jerk" or drastic reactions, such as downsizing, that will bring short-term benefits, such as reducing costs immediately, but impact negatively on the long-term viability of the organisation.

For around 2 decades, I have been conducting sessions on organisational change management and constantly need to re-vitalise the sessions. Some re-vitalising strategies which I have used are:

- began to organise the workshops myself (initially he presented the workshop for a training organisation)

- outsourced proofreading and editing of written material

- regularly changing the length of session from 1 to 5 days depending on the needs of the group

- changed venues (different hotels) and locations (different cities and countries)

- changed where I advertised (initially focused on mailing lists, then on managerial journals, and then concentrated more on Internet, business magazines and professional journals; now a primary focus on e-marketing, personal contact and social media)

- altered the registration process (initially had a PA handle all enquiries and registration; now I do it myself as it allows me to talk directly with potential attendees)

- regularly re-designed and updated the brochure advertising the workshop (making it more colourful and professional plus suitable for different markets)

- changed my presentation style (started with overheads, moved to PowerPoint and now focus on attendees' participation)

- changed workshop frequency (from twice a year to once in some markets; up to 4 times a year in another market)

- regularly upgraded and expanded the accompanying reference book. It started as 1 volume of around 120 pages; it is now 5 volumes of over 2,500 pages with 1,500 plus references covering 70+ frameworks and 230+ implementation techniques

- reduced size of workbooks so that the content was formatted into 2 pages per A4 size page; now copy the 5 volumes onto a CD/USB for attendees

- provided a complimentary copy of book (The Toolbox for Change: a practical approach) which is now in its 3rd edition and hand-out detailed background notes

- increasingly devote more time to pre- and post-workshop discussions with attendees

- clientele has changed over time (increasing number of academics, female managers and consultants, young professionals, etc attending the workshop)

- conduct more in-house workshops (including to consultant groups, etc)

- regularly have associates attend the workshop to critically evaluate my performance

- at different times, I have partnered with a leading Australian university's executive teaching facility, an international training organisation, professional association and a tier-one legal firm

- developed a Masterclass concept (with co-facilitator) to cater for increasing numbers of young professionals who are academically trained in change management and have had several years' experience in the workforce

- expanded by conducting Masterclass/workshop outside Australia (including USA, Fiji, Solomon Islands & PNG) with locally-based associates

- accept invitations to be guest lecturer/course facilitator at tertiary institutions, like University of South Pacific, to post-graduate students. These sessions cover 40+ hours of training

- develop an app on change management

Even though we are concentrating on the application of the S-curve to organisations and products/services, it has applications to empires, personal relationships, etc

"...the world keeps changing. It is one of the paradoxes of success that the things and the ways which got you where you are, are seldom the things to keep you there....the secret of constant growth is to start a new sigmoid curve before the first peters out..."

Charles Handy, 2002

"...good companies react quickly to change; great companies create the change......move before the wave; change before you have to...."

Robert Kriegel, 1996

"...Looking at the same businesses from a different shared perspective changed our mind-set..."

Jack Welch, 2001

The new can be a new product/service, new way of operating, a new strategy, new culture, etc that is different from the old. Sometimes it need a different people as some people will want to hold onto the old ways. Ideally

"...new ideas and new people have to coexist with the old until the second curve is established and the first begins to wane..."

Charles Handy, 2002

This is a time of great confusion with different groups of people and their ideas competing for the future

"...the discipline of the second curve requires that you always assume that you are near the peak of the first curve......and should therefore be starting to prepare a second curve...... McKinsey studied 208 companies over 18 years in order to discover those who were consistently successful. There are only 3 who lasted the course of the whole 18 years. 53% could not maintain their record for more than 2 years....Individuals should also work on the assumption that life will not continue as is for ever and that a new direction will be needed in two or three years....It will..... force one to challenge the assumptions underlying the first curve and to devise some possible alternatives.....The discipline of the second curve keeps one sceptical, curious and inventive - attitudes essential in a time of change and the best way of coping with the contradictions that accompany such a time..."

Charles Handy, 2002

One of the essentials for success with the second curve approach is that people are willing to let go of the past, ie break the emotional attachment to the past, irrespective of its success

Remember: there is no perfect answer in a changing world. Therefore we must be forever searching

Organisations and products have shrinking half-lives, eg

"Microsoft is always 2 years away from failure"

Bill Gates as quoted by AFRBoss, 2000

"Microsofts' chief technology officer has estimated that 20% of his company's in-house technical knowledge becomes obsolete each year"

Gary Hamel, 2000a

"Netscape started in 1994, went public in 1995 and was dumped in 1998 when it was sold to AOL. It had a life span of 4 years"

AFRBoss, 2000

Another way of looking at this is

"...the need to 'sense an emerging future" in order to meet the challenges of managing an increasingly technology-based economy. As the pace of technological development quickens, so does the rate of what the economist Joseph Schumpeter called "creative destruction" - products, companies, and even entire industries. This leads.....to continual "forming, configuring, locking in and decaying of structures." Little is predictable or repetitive. Problems are not well-defined. The rules of the game as well as the other players change rapidly as the stakes get increasingly higher. Overall, business operates less and less like "the halls of production of the old, repetitive manufacturing industry" and more and more like a kind of "casino of technology." In this kind of business environment, making decisions based on the habits of past experience is no longer optimal - or wise......business leaders, such as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Sam Walton have succeeded in the new business environment because they know how to distance themselves from the "problem" and to avoid knee-jerk reactions. They have developed the capacity to avoid imposing old frameworks on new realities...

Peter Senge et al, 2005


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