Over the last month or so i’ve been working up a series of articles around Change: a framework that explores manifestations of change in organisations and seeks to provide a route map to agility. Today i started pulling all of this together into a book and, as those of you who have been here for a while will know, when i work on a book, i like to #WorkOutLoud and share some extracts as i go. Some parts of this text you may recognise already as i begin the process of reworking and refining it into a longer form narrative. Feedback is always welcome in the writing process!
“This is a book about change. It’s about both individuals and the organisations that they work within, cohabiting a culture within the ecosystem of the Social Age. It’s a book about how change affects those people and how those people affect change. It’s a book about how we can both understand and influence the process, with the aim of helping organisations reflect and restructure, becoming truly agile and dynamic in both mindset and action, truly fit for the Social Age.
Why? Because the Social Age is a time of constant change: to thrive, organisations must adapt. But that adaptation means change in itself, change which is hard to visualise and harder still to embark on, to steer and to achieve. The result? At best, lethargy, churn and lost opportunity. At worst, extinction.
The world is in flux and those organisations that fail to adapt will simply fail. We see waves of change sweeping through financial services, technology, medical and education sectors, through the creative industries, publishing and even the military and government. Change is not the exception: it’s the norm, and when the environment we inhabit changes, we need to adapt, fast.
Change is complex: both in it’s conception and execution. It involves a journey from intent to transformation and requires both micro and macro adaptation. Organisations progress at different speeds, with different levels of success. In this book i’ll lay out a framework of the ways that this change is manifested, to determine patterns and to provide insight as to how an organisation can progress.
In this picture, you can see a change curve that bifurcates: on one leg, we achieve momentum and transformation. On the other, we end up with churn and lethargy. Between these spaces, most organisations fall and fail.
We will explore every aspect of this change curve: what it means to be ‘Resistant’ to change, what it means to be ‘Constrained’, what it means to be ‘Dynamic’, and the stages we go through as we transition between those stages.
In that sense, this book is intended both as diagnostic and toolkit: allowing an organisation to reflect on where it sits on the Change Curve and to take actions to move up it. This is not a book about theory: it’s a book about change, and how we take hold of things to change for the better.
What’s the opposite of change? I’ve settled on lethargy and churn: that warm and comfortable illusion where we think things are fine whilst, that we are doing the right things, whilst the world collapses around us. Lethargy is where we fail to gain understanding, buy in or momentum. Churn is where we rush to activity, but fail to achieve transformation. Lost opportunity is where we fail to innovate, to adapt, to be creative in our approaches to our evolved ecosystem and to grasp the opportunity that it presents to us.
Many organisations that think they are changing are, in fact, in a state of churn. Busy, but ultimately just splashing. Some are still in denial, or mistake holistic change as simply being about millennial or technology. In fact, it’s neither and both: technology is simply one of the most visible manifestations of constant change, and millennials are simply the first to adapt. They are the canaries in the mine, not the problem itself. The problem is in those organisations unwilling to listen or unable to adapt. Those are the mindsets that will kill us.
The origins of this book are through a series of articles #WorkingOutLoud on the blog: that sense of iteration and co-creation are central to this work. Under the Change Curve framework, the future state is not imposed upon people, but rather co-created with them. It’s a framework that allows people to invest in the future state and, through that investment, be part of the change community. Under this mindset, the role of the organisation is less about defining and controlling change, more about framing it and then getting out of the way to let it happen. But more of that later. For now, let’s start by exploring the three manifestations of organisational change. The Change Curve.”