Organizational Change Strategy

Few things are as daunting as organizational change, both for the change agent and the person being asked to change. The change agent can easily be overwhelmed by the immense task ahead of them, while everyone else tends to feel like to proverbial “old dog” being asked to learn new tricks. This is why it is so important for me to start with a common understanding of why, how, and what for my innovation plan. This common baseline will help to start everyone on the same page and establish a common goal for organizational change.

Building on that common understanding, then, I will have a basis to be able to explore how to motivate people to change using the Influencer model’s Six Sources of Influence. By addressing the structural, social, and personal spheres of motivation and ability, I will be more likely to meaningfully influence others in my organization to want to change. When we are personally motivated to change—that is, when we have ownership in the process—the project will be more successful.

Motivation alone, though, does not guarantee a project’s success. Perhaps more detrimental to the change process than lack of motivation is the project being choked out by the daily grind, or what the Four Disciplines of Execution calls the “whirlwind.” Having established a strategy to help motivate people, we must move on to execute that strategy through five stages of change—in spite of the whirlwind. This requires singular focus, commitment, and accountability.

Ultimately, though, the biggest impact I can have on an organization—whether I am the one in charge or whether I’m at the bottom or the organizational ladder—is going to be through the individual dealings I have with others. It’s also the area over which I have the most control. Enter the concepts of self-differentiated leadership and crucial conversations.

Much like in the Influencer model, Friedman’s concept of self-differentiated leadership understands the relationship between the social and personal spheres, but refuses to blur the line and descend into groupthink. One way of doing this is what Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, and Switzler refer to as stating your path and asking for others to state theirs. They advise,

“So once you’ve shared your point of view—facts and stories alike—invite others to do the same. If your goal is to keep expanding the pool of meaning rather than to be right, to make the best decision rather than to get your way, then you’ll willingly listen to other views.” (p. 143)

Seeing myself as part of a larger whole, yet unique from it, also allows me to see others in the same way, which encourages the humility and respect necessary to successfully navigate these conversations. Treating others with this respect is a cornerstone of the Crucial Conversations methodology. Without this differentiation and respect, the techniques become mere manipulation.

Again, here, a common understanding of the “why” is important; Patterson, et. al. call it starting with heart. When change becomes confrontational, having established a common starting ground will allow us to come together for the already-agreed-upon common goal. Then, with that common goal established, we can work together to maintain a safe conversational environment where fear doesn’t dominate the exchange and both sides are able to openly yet respectfully share their ideas and concerns. Once agreement has been reached, then, we will be able to move to action together.

These very different, yet very similar, approaches to organizational change work together beautifully to minimize resistance to change and allow for maximum impact.