ORGANISATIONAL CHANGE

“The nature of the global business environment guarantees that no matter how hard we work to create a stable and healthy organisation, our organisation will continue to experience dramatic changes far beyond our control. ” - Margaret J. Wheatley

The majority of organisational change programs critically fail to deliver the results expected by either management or the participants. (Most research and case studies put the failure rate at 70% or higher for all forms of change.) This is a damning indictment of the way we currently approach change within organisations. Whatever we are doing isn't working! But the fact remains that organisations must change to survive and thrive, especially in trying times. As Jack Welsh is often quoted as saying, "when the rate of change inside the institution is less than the rate of change outside, the end is in sight."

The Adaptive Learning perspective is that change should be viewed as an integral part of any organisation: be this a sporting team, a business or a family. Change is an essential element in the maturation of relationships and workplaces should be seen as dynamic and evolving organisms. With this frame of mind, change becomes an accepted part of life and not something to be feared. It is a key understanding that people generally are not resistant to change, but resist the perceived losses associated with change. For example, people will not readily change if by changing they lose something which they consider as being part of their identity. But as Edgar Schein has pointed out learning is essentially changing what we know or believe. This raises an interesting tension which underpins both personal and organisational development. What elements must we change to grow and develop and what must we keep constant to maintain our identity intact.

Adaptive Learning has developed a practical "activation-energy" (AE) model of Organisational Change which goes far beyond the freeze-thaw concept of Lewin or the widely accepted eight step model of Kotter. Where Kotter might suggest building a compelling case for change and finding a 'burning platform' to engender a sense of urgency, we find that this can be a two-edged sword. A real or imagined crisis can invoke fear, a negative energy which is just as likely to have people running for the nearest rabbit hole, holding on to what they know and resisting the change, as it is to be the impetus for change. Undoubtedly energy is required to change, but the positive energy of aspiration and passion is more effective and has less side effects. It is vital that people be engaged with change and empowered to make their own choices about change.

In addition change does not have to be 'top-down' (although the support of Senior Management is desirable). As Margaret Wheatley has recently shown, the formation of 'networks of practice' can be instrumental in bringing about change from within a community or organisation. These methodologies are now well documented and can be duplicated within most organisations.

Coping with Change:
A question asked frequently by organisational leaders of Adaptive Learning is "can you help our people cope with change?" The answer is of course, yes! By understanding change transition - the underlying anxieties and working directly with managers and change agents, we can lessen the impact of imposed change on individuals. Also ask us about our "Surfing the Waves of Change" ideas for employees faced with transformational change.

“People do not resist change. They resist being changed.” - Dee Hock

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