Setting the Conditions for Change
Orient for Unlearning and Improvisationally Steering
It cannot be stated fervently enough, do the upfront work to set the conditions, expectations, vision (picture), and intention for your change effort. Pulling people along is non-elegant and eventually unimpactful.
You will inevitably set strategy, re-set strategy, set vision, re-set vision all along the way. The key, however, is do not not set it articulately and collectively upfront. You want to do this for well understood intention, shared understanding, and an open invitation out to the courageous hearts willing to come along on the journey.
How you begin your change is the how your change process will root. Set yourself up for success.
Setting the System Conditions for Tangible Change
- Do upfront work to engage hearts and minds.
- Use small group conversations to discuss and debate reason, vision, and strategy — treating everyone as adults, with dignity, and as key instruments for the change.
- Figure out where the urgency lies (organic or created) and how to leverage and narrate real people stories, as a part of the vision and strategy process.
- Accept that the sense of urgency will shift around as you progress the system, and that is fine.
- Leverage and work with the emerging narrative as you go. It is the system speaking.
- Small groups of early adopters (in real functional, cross-function, strategic teams) teach the system about itself, its resistance, fear, and willingness. Enable, capture, and encourage story and learnings from them to move out into the system (but without creepy propaganda plays.)
- Engage and build a sub-culture of players committed to the change who are prepared to embrace and do the work first to lead changing, tithed to the organisation vision and strategy.
- Use data, qualitative and quantitative, from small, actively engaged pockets of people to inform and share stories.
- Understand that resistance resists until competition sets in. Make it apparent, encouraging, fun, competitive, and real.
- Remain aware that even the sponsors of the change may get caught in resistance and push back when s@*^ gets real, hard, and effortful.
- Engage with that immediacy, root it in real-time, here and now system demand, and stay the course — calibrating to the system, not your timeline and agenda.
- Coach individuals/teams around trust, behavior change, transparency, process-driven versus outcome-driven, autonomy, and self-direction over fear, avoidance, closing off, busyness, and safely relying on leader-delegation.
- Get trained (or engage expertise) on change, if you find yourself without oars in the change boat.
- Navigate around the expected skepticism of “are we allowed to be new ways and do new things?” by establishing overt, expected norms from the right system influencers who historically hold sway and earned trust so can speak to what can and cannot be done, safely.
- Navigate around total naysayers, period. They won’t help you if you engage with them and if you don’t — so save your energy.
- Appreciate that any transformative, progressive, and evolutionary change processes are dimensional, not linear, in both the short- and long-term.
- Deeply understand that while wholly necessary to any systemic change process, the application of the structural and tactical installations are but a part of the whole change gig.
- Embrace how applying new states of system being intelligence and intentionality (trust, feedback systems (not performance) using qualitative data, reciprocity, conscious awarenesses, surprises) increases vulnerability, triggers uncertainty, and roots robustness.
- Mind the forces in the field of change and learn to steer into, away from and catch their winds with discernment, and your higher heart, as a way of leading.
- Identify evangelizers and natural (not antagonistic) disruptors who are passionate, invested, and interested in seeing the organization succeed and reach these goals.
- Enroll evangelizers early, in meaningful ways, and often for their contributions to the effort.
- Interrupt your default thinking that actual change begins and ends at the top. It doesn’t and has not ever.
- Remind yourselves that change begins and ends with invested, inspired, and creative heart minds.
- Design an articulate, invigorating, and logically, outcome-based image for change that human hearts across the system are drawn into because the reason why matters to their every day.
- Use these scaffold (responsibly) to energise your change.
- Learn to work with the energy.