Why is difficult to sustain Change?

Several companies fail in their attempts to achieve excellence. A common reason is that the so much needed change wasn’t planned or implemented properly, and it will be rejected by the organization, as the organizations are auto-regulated (autopoiesis, Maturana dixit). Often, companies (or consultants) use a packaged change program: “Whatever worked for X company is good enough for company Y.”  Additionally, everyone wants a quick fix that makes them look better in no time, and more often than not, structural changes are messy.

We often forget that things that developed or deteriorated for years, cannot change in a couple of weeks, with just a few meetings. We need to change people behavior and often, beliefs.  As this is frequently a very important and not always  evident obstacle for change: organizational defenses.

To achieve organizational excellence, organizations should focus on learning, competence and justice, instead of morale, satisfaction and loyalty which are the frequent concerns of HR, as Chris Argyris says. Learning will allow us to detect errors and correct them; competence will help us to solve problems definitely and justice will improve the organizational health. Regardless of the change agents’ efforts, if the organization doesn’t really focus on these three issues, change won’t be sustainable.

overcome-obstacles

SEVEN ERRORS THAT PREVENT REAL CHANGE

Argyris mentions seven worldwide errors that top management considers crucial, and that have been proved through research:

1. Actions intended to increase understanding and trust often produce misunderstanding and mistrust.  Think of all these meetings that large companies have between the head office and a local office.  Head office executives think that everything has been cleared out and local office executives wonder what is the head office really planning to do.

2. Blaming others or the system for poor decisions. No one likes to take the blame, and no one wants to admit they made a mistake.

3. Organizational inertia: the tried and proven ways of doing things dominate organizational life. We have all heard the typical comment: “it has always been done this way”, or “I don’t have the authority to change it”. People tend to stick with what they did yesterday, often forgetting that if there is a new competitor, new technology or new need, what worked yesterday won’t necessarily work today.

4. Upward communications for difficult issues are often lacking. No one wants to bring the bad news,  Upward communication from employees often disappears at management level.

5. Budget games are necessary evils. Everyone in a medium or large company knows the different applications of this defense.  People tend to undersell to make sure that they can deliver, conceal unattractive programs in a more attractive one, require authority from different parties to make difficult to come to an agreement, promise future results instead of being clear on what the program does, etc.

6. People don’t behave reasonably, even when it’s in their best interest. A lot of irrational responses can be found here: rejection, indecision, procrastination, sabotage, lack of follow-up, etc.  People think that just by being (or appearing busy) things will change or fade away.

7. The management team is often a myth.  

 

WHAT DO WE DO, THEN?

There is no magic pill to change our behavior in organizations, but we can start by understanding these errors and finding which ones apply to our organization. We need to process our fears and work as individuals and in groups, to understand what is happening to our organization and what do we need to do to change it. We need to get rid of the “fancy footwork” that protects this defensive routines.  We need to understand and challenge the assumption that is behind each defensive behavior.

When we talk about changes that impact the entire organization, there is never too much communication or training.  But both process should be a two way path. We need to listen and learn what is really happening in the organization.  Our Change  Management efforts cannot be superficial, otherwise we risk the trust the organization may have on it.

We need to unlearn and re-learn a new model of thinking. Analysis, reflection and humble inquiry are needed if we are to get to the bottom of these defenses.

Do you have any example of question? Please, share it in the comments section.

Advertisements

Managing Change vs. Leading Change

Some days ago, I attended a conference and realized Lewin’s change model is still in use. The simplicity of the model is useful to illustrate the process, but in my perspective, it could be misleading.  If we haven’t experienced a deep transformation process, we can think the change process is linear and looks like this:

Lewin change model

It consists in providing the conditions for people to see what needs to be changed and why, what resources do they have and which ones they need.  Then, during the change process it refers to planning and adopting new practices, and modifying behavior to adapt to change. Finally, coming back to the normal conditions, using and incorporating change.

In a strict sense and in retrospective, an organizational change may look like that. However, transforming human behavior is not so easy and for sure it’s not linear.

The ADKAR model developed by Prosci, is one of the most comprehensive models businesses use nowadays.

graph_adkar1

Regardless of the type of change your organization is going through, understanding the stages of change will reduce confusion, but having more clarity on what are the pitfalls and what is needed to move from one stage to another is relevant.  However, as John Kotter says,  it is important to remember that managing change is not the same as leading change. “Management” implies a system or process that can and should be constantly monitored, whereas “Leadership” suggests assembling and inspiring a group of people who will design and own a self sustaining program.

A lot of companies talk about Change managers (or even champions), when what they actually need are Change leaders that can instill the urgency to change and motivate the entire organization to go through an unpredictable, difficult and long process, that will end up changing the culture of the company. We need to remember that although the goal may be the same, the process is quite different and therefore, requires a different set of skills.

How to cultivate a Learning Network

After you finish school your learning opportunities come from three sources: events, reading material, and people. The events that happen to you are pretty much related to the kind of job you have and activities you do. If you work in a company and follow the same routine, it will take a lot of luck to move out of your “comfort zone”, which incidentally is your “learning zone”. If you go out, your learning will follow a pattern that will limit you, as you won’t be exposed to radically new ideas.

Let me explain: if you work, as I did, as a manager of a team, your reading material and experiences will be related to your field and the few topics that interest you. But also, if you are the “expert” in a topic, you might disregard information that you don’t agree with, as we tend to consider ourselves too good to learn from them.   If you still read the newspaper, it will bring you perhaps a little bit more of information, although probably outdated (as we know that with social media we have access to more and more information every second).

I’ll give you an example: ten years ago most of my reading material was on Organizational development, personal development and literature. The chances of reading a good book on, let’s say medicine, were really slim. However, one day I went to a conference where the speaker was Juan Enriquez, and this event opened the door to a whole new world: genomics, technology, science, innovation, etc. During this conference, Enriquez talked about the BRCA test and how this small piece of information should be more important for women than any other thing related to her breasts. Angelina Jolie just brought it to the attention of the general public 10 years later.

The type of books/articles you read, will likely come from the people that you talk to or the events that influence you. So, when we hear Humberto Maturana saying that “the quality of our conversations  determines the quality of our relationships, and the quality of our relationships determines the quality of our work”  all this makes sense. Your learning and your work depends on the reflections you have on the events and conversations that you have.

In 2008 I read that my colleague Abiel Guerra had attended a seminar in Cape Cod with Edgar Schein.  Although I was closer to Cape Cod than him (he’s in Mexico), I hadn’t heard of this institute before.  Attending Schein’s seminar next year changed the way I perceived several things and introduced me to more awesome people, such as my friend Ralf Lippold in Germany. This event had a strong influence too, in the type of projects I designed during my master’s degree, such as a virtual stammtisch on Change, with people from all over the world, as Ralf introduced me to an Austrian guy who is in Brazil, and I invited a couple of friends from Colombia, Chile and Mexico that I met through a World Cafe workshop in Brazil. That broadened my network and their networks, too. changing conversations logo

So, if you want to increase the quality of the conversations you have, you need to be exposed to different experiences, different people, different ways of thinking. The best way to do it is to have a diverse network.  To increase the diversity of your network you can start changing your patterns in the following ways:

-Meet new people: don’t be shy, talk to people, ask questions. You have to show up, engage in situations where you can meet new people who can introduce you to different ways of thinking. Be open to discuss and learn about other people too, and to answer questions about your own ideas.

-Attend professional gatherings from industries that are not related to your field: this will give you the great opportunity of meeting new amazing people, and listen to great ideas.  Also, people love to talk to someone who is genuinely interested.

-Get out of your comfort zone: that’s a given. If you don’t speak the same industry language, you’ll likely ask more questions, be more interested and learn more (as you won’t judge and discard easily a topic).

-Follow people on Twitter: search for keywords that are interesting, check users’ bios and followers. Then, follow more people!

-Suscribe to TED: a lot of my inspiration for my work I got it from a TED talk, if you find other similar resources, let me know. I’ll be happy to share more information.

-Join Goodreads and search for trending books: check out what are your friends and some other people reading, you may find interesting stuff.

-Connect the dots between fields or topics: my friend Ralf is passionate about opera and ballet and loves to see how arts connect with management and productivity, for example. Find the common elements, the things that work in a field and how they can be applied into another field.  There is no limit!

So, in a nutshell, opening up to new opportunities and new people will help you generate new ideas. Some days ago, for example, I went to an HR breakfast, a Sustainability 5@7 and a Growing Community event at the Planetarium, all these events in less than 48 hours.  I cannot begin to say how I feel now, excited and recharged, and now my mind is exploding with new ideas, leads and articles to follow up with, and the best, all of this for free!

Please, share your ideas and let’s see what we can build together.

Charlie and Edie Seashore and the Use of Self

seashoreIn 2009 I had the opportunity to attend Edgar Schein’s seminar at Cape Cod Institute. Charlie and Edie Seashore were also giving a seminar on the Intentional Use of Self, if I’m not mistaken. I couldn’t attend to their seminar, but I made a mental note to do it as soon as I could, as I heard great things about them and learn about their contribution to the OD/HSI field. This year, Charlie passed away and I look forward to attending this summer to the seminar that Edie and Robert Marshak would give. However, I just learned that this Saturday, Edie passed away, too, which is very sad news for all OD practitioners, who learned with them about the use of Self as an instrument for change,  the importance of feedback and reframing in our own change processes, and so on.

Using our Self to facilitate change is not an easy process. It implies being aware of our own internal processes, background, ideas, feelings, emotions, and a lot of other factors that may be conscious or unconscious. It also changes ourselves, and that’s not an easy task to endure.  Using our Self requires also an understanding of the systems paradigm, and embracing emergence; something that not everyone is at ease with, given the need for highly structured plans and prediction in the current markets.

There are different models used to understand one’s Self as an instrument for organizational diagnosis. They help us to triangulate the data and understand ourselves and the world we live in. Using one’s Self requires a lot of training, awareness, and reflection.  We need to uncover ourselves, in the same way we peel an onion, understanding that every layer is the onion itself, but the onion is more than a layer.

Seashore uses a model a little bit more complex, that includes:

  • Choices
  • Unconscious and out of awareness factors
  • Systems thinking and the issue of undesirable outcomes
  • Working with colleagues
  • Long term self development
  • Support systems
  • Frameworks and theories
  •  Projection and transference
  •  Reflexive processing
  • Appreciation of Diversity

with the purpose of understanding and using one’s Self to help individuals, groups and organizations  achieve their own potential and become sustainable and strong. And as Charlie Seashore said: “It is not the simplest way to go about our business, but it may be one of the most intriguing, rewarding and powerful of the tools available to us”.

 

OD professionals

Notes of Joseph Bentley’s Conference at UDEM (Mexico) on March 2012.
joe bentley
1. We, OD professionals, know how to facilitate collaboration instead of
conflict. Organizational issues require collaboration, as the ones that
are at the top of the organization have the power but frequently don’t
know how to solve the issues, and the ones at the bottom have the
knowledge but not the power to solve them.
2. We know it’s important to give voice to everyone, in harmony. We know
that giving voice brings commitment, commitment brings energy and energy
brings progress.
3. We believe that conflict is not always bad. It generates possibilities. Conflict facilitates possibilities and when it’s appreciated, leads to consensus.
4. We know “how things change in a planned way”. An added value of OD is planning, as it allows a semi-organized change, instead of chaotic
change.
5. We understand that it’s always about people. Technology and Finance could be strong but people are the system. They are the ones who solve
the issues.
6. We know how to teach. A lot in OD is to teach the ones with the power.  85% of the leaders hadn’t have any formal training on leadership. A coach
has a very important role in the organization.
7. We know that the most valuable learning is the one achieved through struggle. Problems open you up for learning.
8. We understand the pressure of time. We don’t know where we would be in the next 20 years, or what the conditions will be. We will be solving
problems that we don’t know yet, with people that are still studying elementary school, in situations that we cannot predict now, however, we
know that face to face conversation will be important. We will need to discuss desires, goals, achievements, failures.  We are comfortable with
ambiguity.
9. We understand that OD starts always with a problem. It’s difficult to pay attention if everything is ok. All changes start with a need.
We understand that there is conflict between the organization and its needs and the individual and his/her needs. We know how to work with
people to solve the organizational problems.
10. We understand that change requires a lot of energy: at the beginning and also through the entire process. People are usually energized at the
beginning but have less energy after the initial stage. We are able to channel the energy for the bold stroke at the beginning,
as well as the needed for the long march.
An OD professional is the one:
 who is comfortable with ambiguity
 committed with collaboration
 who honors other people
 who involves others
 who is an expert in Human Relations
who learns fast
 who is eager to receive feedback.
We can see things that the rest cannot, understand them in a different way and tell the truth in a way that engage people, instead of losing
them.