“If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.” – Lao
The ERF committee will be bringing renewed focus to Organisational Development, in part by using this column to share insights and case studies of leaders’ experiences in making change stick in their businesses.
Organisational Development is fundamentally about improving effectiveness, which always requires change to take place. This often include changes in systems, structures and processes, but sustained change in an organisation only sticks when the people in it change, and more so when a critical mass of people have changed.
Helping people to change is and always will be a Leadership issue, and does not happen by accident. Change can (and does) happen anywhere in a business, but is always most sustainable if it is led from the top, and follows a cohesive plan. Kerry Paterson et al in their book “Change Anything” (2011) put forward three spheres of influence that are helpful when planning organisational change.
The first is about the Individual – people who are more willing to change, simply change faster. But it is also true that leaders help by focusing on giving people the skills required to change, as well as providing them with the means to change, which could range from clear expectations of what is required to powerful but simple tools that help them change. Ultimately individuals in your organization will want to answer two questions: First: Is it worth it? Second: Can I actually do it? A planned effort needs to address both of these expectations – the willingness and ability of the people in your organization. Both of these are things that happen on the inside of people. Paying specific attention to helping your people through these transitions helps them to transition from feeling like a victim of change to feeling they are both willing and able to make a contribution to it.
The second sphere of influence is Social. When looking to influence change and make it stick, no resource is more powerful and accessible than the persuasion of the people who make up our social network. Our human desire to be accepted, respected and connected should be harnessed. When an individual is surrounded by people who want them to change and help them do so, change is much more likely. As a business leader you must be prepared to be a role model and enlist the support of others to accelerate change as part of your planned organizational strategy. Think about enlisting the help of coaches to facilitate this, as well as identifying those inside the business that are already ahead of the curve. Work with them early, and build an alliance of people who want to work together to accelerate change.
The third source of influence is Structural. Here there are two important questions to ask yourself. First: What systems and processes will reinforce the change? There must be consequences for change. Where positive behaviours are rewarded, and negative behaviors are sanctioned, change is more likely. Interrogating existing systems of recognition is an important part of organizational development. Design rewards and demand accountability. Second: What structural changes to the physical environment might be needed? Consider the subtle influence of your dining-room table on your family togetherness. This physical object facilitates interesting conversations and face-to-face contact. An obvious, but often overlooked way of changing human behaviours, the physical environment needs to enable the desired change. Without this, even those with the best of intentions, will find the change almost impossible.
All three sources of influence must be considered in developing a cohesive plan to lead sustainable change – overlook any one of them and prospects of success diminish sharply.
We will be regular contributors to the Business Hi-Lite through this column, sharing insights and case studies relating to the successful leverage of these ideas to facilitate a planned and sustained change in your business.