This is a writing week: i am close to completing a full manuscript for a new book, ‘The Change Handbook – building the Socially Dynamic Organisation’. By a stroke of luck, i have managed to find a calm energy this week, and, largely sat in the sun in my parents garden, have made solid progress. This year i am trying to take one full week a month for long form writing, and when i do so, i am not creating new writing for the blog, but rather #WorkingOutLoud and sharing extracts, so that is what i am doing today. This is a chapter from the mid point of the Dynamic Change Framework, and it is about ‘embedding’ the change community (called the SEED community) back into the organisation. In a three year change journey, this would be somewhere around half way. I share this un-proofed, unfinished, but as part of #WorkingOutLoud.
As we seek to embed the change we have achieved so far, we reach the half way point in the Dynamic Change Framework: we have looked at the 16 resisters of change, and sought to segment them, to break them down. We have looked at the relationship between ‘me’, ‘we’, and ‘us’, and considered how we can engage, broadly, in change, and found our SEED communities, the spaces for ‘sense making’ conversations to take place.
We have thought about agency, and the need to create it, and embed it, broadly. If we get all of this right, we have put in place the foundations for change, for co-created and co-owned change, to occur.
It may seem like this has been a lot of work, but foundations are everything. The Socially Dynamic Organisation has a foundation in it’s community, not simply in it’s formal power, so building out the engaged community, and creating agency, is the strongest foundation that we can give.
But now we start to change, we need to bring the organisation back together again: we need to embed our SEED communities back into the organisation.
Up until this point in the change journey, we have relished in the space and permission that we have been able to claim outside the everyday reality, but at some point, change must gain momentum, if it is ever to be transformative, and at some pointe must look to embed the change deep into the heart and mindset of the organisation itself.
This part of the model deals with how we carry out that embedding process: leaving a legacy of spaces to talk in, stories of change to share, with a network of strong amplifiers and awarding our first socially moderated recognition and reward. Let’s look at each of these in turn.
One of the first steps we carried out to erode the resistance was to find external spaces for our conversations: spaces free of existing limitation. We used these to embed our embryonic change agents and change leaders, our early adopters. We called these SEED communities. We used them to create a safe space to be curious, to question, to challenge. In the early stages, we have to use Bridging Conversations to loop back into the organisation.
But to truly become Dynamic, we have to bring the community into the organisation itself: we need to cross the bridge back into the real world!
The reason for creating the external space is to draft new permissions and free ourselves of the restrictions we feel in existing ones. With these new spaces in place, we can engage in new ways and explore the future together. With these spaces, we can segment and overcome the sixteen Resistors to change. But once that is in process, we can migrate the conversations back inside. Why? Because the intention was never for them to be external: they simply needed to hatch in a safe space. As they mature, as the community finds it’s shape and purpose, finds it’s power and cohesion, it can handle the lingering resistance, it can exist internally, not bound by questions of whether it even has a permission to exist.
By this stage, you may be a year into a change journey. Building the community, creating agency, these are not fast or easy things to do. It’s a mindset shift, and that shift takes place over time.
The migration of the community back into the organisation itself is not one of packing boxes and loading trucks: it’s a consensual attraction, more a case of creating space and allowing the community to find a natural home. It’s worth remembering that communities are conversations, not technologies, so just implementing a technology won’t ensure the community moves, but making clear that a space exists may. These transition points are challenging: we don’t want to (don’t have a permission to) arbitrarily move a community, but we can create the conditions for it to migrate.
One part of this will be through the use of the stories we tell: as we transition back to the organisation, travelling back across the bridge, we can share our stories of what we have achieved and what we are now in a position to tackle. As each devolved group has overcome it’s resistors, found it’s power and solved some problems, there are stories to be told. The telling of these stories can be anchored to the new, internal space. By nature, if these stories form the socially awarded badges of recognition, they may help draw the conversation back.
The community that we bring back to the organisation at this stage is not wide, but it’s deep: the people who have invested thought and time in addressing our early requests for engagement. These may be our amplifiers: the shining lights we can use to draw out the rest.
There will be casualties at this stage: this is a challenging thing. This is the stage at which we truly start to change. There are opportunities for individuals to engage in the change, to find a new source of power, a new role, an enabling and compelling one. But it may not suit everyone. Change means shaking the tree, and displacing nests. I’m uncertain as to whether true change can be achieved without some displacement: the thing we need to understand is how we manage the change fairly, creating opportunities to engage, but recognising and supporting people who cannot make the whole journey.
I struggle, even as I write this, but let’s consider the nature of loss: in formal change model, people are disempowered, change is done to them, and some leave. In a Dynamic change approach, we co-create the change, can find individual agency, and have the opportunity to become invested within it. If we provide the right nurturing and support through our SEED communities, it’s ok for some people to decide that the new state is not for them.
This is not about pushing people out, but it is about creating a new culture (a socially Dynamic one), a new space, achieving momentum, and transforming. It’s natural to assume that not everyone will enjoy, commit to, or value the new culture. But the new culture itself is a sign that we are changing.
Transforming culture is the hardest thing to do: physical change is easy, hierarchical change is relatively simple, but cultural transformation is extremely difficult, because true culture is co-created in the moment through the actions of every individual: you cannot cheat it, you are part of it.
In the process of embedding the SEED community back into the main organisation, we are doing one other key thing: communities have a half life. If we remain external for too long, we may simply start to become a feature of constraint: remember in the Dynamic Change Curve: when we get half way, we either fall to control effects, being well intentioned, but futile, or we achieve momentum, and transform.
Embed the SEED community, and watch it sprout and grow. If it works, we will forget what the seed even looked like, and just celebrate the growth of the tree.
What you need to know:
- We have created SEED communities, deliberately claiming external space and permission, but these cannot stay outside forever: we have to embed the change back into the organisation, we must bring our new capability to bear at scale.
- Moving a community is a process of engagement and attraction: if we have used our bridging conversations wisely, if we have engaged at breadth, it should be an easy tipping point.
- At this stage, some people may leave: this is the point at which an organisation truly starts to change, and those who cannot commit will likely be isolated or fail.