Working with change is necessary. Recognize the consequences of it to survive victory and sustain innovation.
Change can be difficult to embrace and navigate, no matter the context. Change is also a necessary element of life. People are unique and respond differently to change depending on who’s enforcing it, the reasoning (or lack thereof) behind it, personal circumstances, etc. As change agents, we must acknowledge the interconnectedness within organizations.
Sustaining change is critical for successful change programs. While change is often necessary, we must also survive the victories we work hard for. With any movement, there’s a countermovement (a concept explained further by Greg Satell, author of Cascades and creator of Cascades: Adopting a Changemaker Mindset and can be found here) For Greg, surviving victory is about acknowledging, tracking, and accounting for the countermovement. In order to be fully aware of countermovements or oppositions along our change journey, we have to be cognizant of the interconnectedness of the whole system. There are ripple effects and systemic impacts to anything we change.
Imagine touching a spiderweb. The vibrations you’re creating affect other parts of the web. What did you just unleash from across the web? Is a spider coming to get you now? While this may be a dark comparison, when looking at the organization as a whole, we need to understand what changes will result in a positive ripple or, perhaps, a negative one.
What are the unintended consequences of change? Even if things look stable when you touch the web, it could collapse.
We have to assess, experiment, adapt, apply and sustain change if we want to make progress and ensure it sticks. Without patience and constant curiosity, your situational awareness and understanding of potential threats and opportunities will be deficient and misguide you. You should ask yourself, what are the emotional, social, technical, and legal lenses that we need to revisit continually?
We’ll use the following questions to discuss change and the interconnectedness of the system.
- What does it mean to sustain change, and how can we apply it?
- How can we communicate and celebrate change as we proceed?
- How can we demonstrate empathy as change leaders?
As we progress with this article, it’s important to think about the practical application for your situation. If you need support in processing these concepts as an organization, reach out.
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What does it mean to sustain change, and how can we apply it?
Tensions, shifts, and changes impact our ability to sustain our change. Part of sustaining change means that we build a capacity for change. If we’re unwilling to change or we view change as hard and something we have to suffer through, if we think of it as a necessary evil, then we’re not going to be prepared for when those other systems shift.
Community plays a big part. We need to think about our existing community and ask how we can best contribute to continued dialogue for learning.
Collaborative tendencies give way to innovative practices.
Ask the questions that initiate this way of thinking and working.
What is working? What are the best parts of change? How can we stay true to our values and our focus while continuing this embracing of change?
At the end of the day, thinking about change from a holistic or systemic approach means we hold all of these things in parallel. We can and should consider leveraging our resources: people, institutions, money, knowledge, or technology.
How can we make and keep change positive?
How are we measuring processes and progress? We want to avoid having to reassess and realize there’s a problem with the way we’ve been working and learning.
Keeping tabs on our KPIs and scorecard is important. We need to have a cadence and share that with those who contribute to those statistics. Interconnectedness is not to be underestimated.
The mindset of curiosity and growth is critical for sustaining change.
We want to be comfortable with change and growth.
Based on where we’re at right now, how might we benefit from the next stage of growth?
Make sure there are moments of celebrating—acknowledge wins.
It helps to understand where the team is at, where we’ve come from, and where we’re headed. It brings perspective to the process.
Make sure we’re pacing ourselves.
People get fatigued. The change process itself has to be rooted in identity and humanity. You want to allow people to see their future selves. When we get there, you want to feel that people got there because they wanted to be part of it, not because they went with the flow and looked up to realize that how they grew was not tied to positive self-interest. They might leave or stay and be in a poor state of mind.
If that hasn’t already been addressed, then now’s the time to do so.
Are we sharing where we’re at and celebrating milestones? Are we sharing and communicating about the scorecard? Are we hyper-aligned with the vision?
Incentives are critical as well. How are we thinking about change and how it benefits people? What is in place? How do we define our work and encourage people to go about the change?
Are there explicit incentives? What are the first and second-order effects? Which tools help us ask how our work might impact us? Personally, we’re fans of the Futures Wheel. How is it going to impact us in three or four years? What do we need to consider as we look at different horizons?
How can we show care as leaders?
We can’t get started without trust. If we want to sustain change, we have to sustain that trust. We have to keep those lines of communication open.
Recognize the Value in Transparency. Accountability and transparency are consequences of ensuring that people, teams, or departments are connected and share information. When changes are made, they’re more efficiently shared.
There needs to be a reason for the change, so there’s a purpose that we should circle back and review. Individuals are the unit of change. Staying on top of communication practices to deliver information appropriately is key to a healthy, linked organization.
Consider Small Decisions. You desire to lead an organization with a positive impact. Treating employees well as individuals is a start. Now acknowledge the interconnectedness of those people on each other and on the organization.
What are your values, and how do your business decisions align with them? Why do we run the business? What first step, big or small, can we take towards aligning better with our values?
Focus on Your People. As organizations, we’re significantly interconnected. Expectations are higher than ever, we exist within a global business environment, and innovation is expected. In fact, it’s hard to survive without pursuing it.
How are you using space appropriately? How are we encouraging collaboration? Are we taking advantage of shared spaces as resources?
People need to feel set up for success. In an increasingly globalized environment, we must focus on our people. If they feel supported and listened to, there’s an appeal to joining and/or sticking around. What do we offer that the other companies don’t? Success ultimately comes down to the people and how they work together towards innovation.
Empathy is expressed through more than one-on-one interactions. It’s also expressed at a higher level. How are we setting up individuals for success? We must care about them before their output.
Build an organization around values, and make sure that those values are established with people in mind.
Give Thought to Change Impact. Change impacts us individually, too. What are the internal and external implications to us, the team, the initiative, the department, or the company? While both can be difficult, the latter can lead to frustration if not handled appropriately.
What are these different vantage points/perspectives we’re considering?
People often question intentions, consequently building a sense of mistrust and a desire to advocate for the “other side”. As we shake this web, the sense of camaraderie throughout the organization can fade and lead to separation and disinterest in the greater good or team values.
Whenever appropriate, welcome input into change from those it will affect.
Positive and negative changes have different effects. Positive change encourages productivity. Negative change discourages it, and leads to poor performance and inefficiency.
Is there a change that you foresee for the organization? How will the change affect individuals? You want to give people adequate time to prepare for and process change. Individuals have unique ways of reacting and responding to change.
At what point is change necessary, and who deems it necessary?
Who is responsible for making the decisions? It’s important that the individuals responsible for making the final decisions understand the values of the organization and the effects of any given change right now. There’s a balance of both interests and personalities within any organization. Building a foundation of trust, especially that of the greater team in the decision maker(s), is essential to smooth transitions.
Organizational outcomes are the collective result of individual change.
We can help you shift the way you think about business, employees, and growth. As we explore change, the programs we run provide a support system in executing appropriately and operating in a way that earns employee trust and respect.