I’ve got to the last of the three manifestations of organisational change represented in the Change Curve framework. ‘Dynamic Change‘ is that which agile organisations can achieve. Earlier this week i introduced a four part model that represented this, showing how the dynamic organisation frames change, co-creates (and co-owns) solutions, adapts as it works and narrates it’s learning back into the tribe. Today, i’m exploring the first part of that model in a little more depth: framing change.
The organisation that benefits from Dynamic change sees multiple passes through this model: constantly framing ideas, co-creating solutions, testing them and sharing it’s stories.
And here’s the model to remind you of the overall framework:
In an older model of change, the organisation would write the story for others to follow. In an agile approach, seeking Dynamic change, the organisation creates a frame where individuals and engaged communities co-create solutions. The organisation has it’s say, but that story is refined as it’s tested in the real world. We can identify three elements of the frame that the organisation needs to create: it should set the direction of travel, then it should create clear spaces for the community to work in, with clear expectations and resourcing, and it must give appropriate permission. Failure to do all three will likely lead back to ‘churning‘, not change.
‘Direction‘ is about an honest conversation: it’s not a marketing exercise in how we want to paint a fictitious and rosy future, it’s an imperative for change and a call to arms. It’s creating the opportunity for people to engage by being honest about what the change means. For example, if the aim of change is to save costs, we need to be honest about it, and about the extent of it. Or if the aim of change is to improve quality of outputs, we need equal honesty about that too. Why? Because under a co-created model of change, we are looking for people to align themselves with the future state, then co-create it with us (and co-own the journey as we get there). We can’t do that without honesty.
Setting direction is not about writing the story, it’s about saying ‘this is the story we want to write‘. For example: ‘Our market requires greater speed of innovation: over the next six months, we need to write our story of how we achieve world class innovation. Are you part of this story?‘
The frame can be complex if it needs to be, for example, we can say what’s in or out of scope: ‘As we write this story, we cannot change our geographical footprint, but we can look at our core technologies, and our levels of staffing. We can talk about whether we acquire expertise from outside, but that needs to be in line with our values. We will only acquire companies that match these‘. This is an example of a framework that includes both fixed elements (the geography and need for cultural alignment), but also creates space for co-creation (how we do it, where we look etc).
‘Space‘ is about where the conversations take place: on formal technology, we have formal conversations, but for socially moderated solutions, we need co-owned space, space where people are able to learn. We need rehearsal and storytelling space which isn’t fully owned by the organisation.
Communities are fluid: they can move from space to space whilst maintaining the coherence of a conversation, so we shouldn’t imagine that we can procure and deploy a space to own them. It’s more about making a space available, being in the conversation, but not seeking to own or dominate it.
This is a key differentiator of a truly agile organisation: it’s willing to relinquish the control in order to reap the benefits of co-creation.
‘Permission‘ is about clarity on the rules: what’s fixed and what’s on the table. What will cause the shoe to drop, what’s safe? We should always remember that if permission is not granted, it will be claimed, possibly out of earshot. If we want the benefits, we have to take on the risk: create the space, give the permission. If something goes wrong, deal with it together, through conversation, not formal authority.
Social spaces require Social Leadership: not hierarchical models of authority and control, reputation based, not rooted in the hierarchy and formal power. For example, permission may be as simple as telling people what they can and can’t discuss: ‘Within this space, you can discuss options around restructuring and redeployment of people, but you can’t talk about specific people‘. Clear permission to talk about change, with no ambiguity. Or, ‘You can talk about radical solutions in this space, but we agree that our stories stay within this space. We do not share them outside this group‘.
Framing the change is about setting a clear direction of travel, about creating clear spaces and clear permissions. If you hear me saying ‘clear‘ a lot, it’s because we want to remove ambiguity and make ‘clear‘ that these are rehearsal and learning spaces. Not yet performance ones.