change


When it comes to change, whether planned or perhaps just keeping up with change inherent to the global business environment, it is well discussed and debated that the success of change has held steady at a rate of around 30%. If we consider the fact that change is typically viewed and managed from a technology and logistics perspective, this might very well make sense. Whether a merger and acquisition, installing a new system or imposing process best practice, without an understanding of the people dynamic of the organization, what gets missed is whether a desired merger, system or process is a fit for the environment.

Think about it, how many individuals read books about the success of leaders only to discover that mimicking their actions does not work for us? How many successful leaders in one environment have been hired into another only to meet with failure? This phenomenon holds true for teams as well as whole organizations. If leaders lack an understanding of the socio-cultural aspects of the people they lead, how can we be sure the latest system or process is a fit for the organization? Taking this a step further, if we do have a level of understanding, do we see a path for developing our people to transition to the change we desire to make?

The most successful system changes of which I have been a part have typically been home grown. They take into account successful process already in place, driven by the unique dynamic of those working in the environment. The most unsuccessful changes I have observed are those “latest and greatest” off-the-shelf options that are imposed on existing workforce dynamics un- or ill-prepared to take them on. Others lie somewhere in between.

For change to be successful, leadership must make the connection between the system or process and the particular human dynamic of the organization. We must then consider how much the workforce will need to be developed to meet the requirements of a desired system or process, or perhaps what it will take to evolve the existing workforce dynamics to organically update existing systems and process to meet the goals of desired change. If we are adamant about installing or imposing externally allocated systems or process, then we must be prepared for the cost of customization as part of implementation. I have yet to witness a culture changed simply by overlaying an ill-fitted system or process structure. In fact, this is where a 70% rate of change failure may very well lie.

If a leader wants a fuller sense of the human dynamics of the organization, there exists a field of professionals who can support seeing, understanding and developing the people dynamic of the business. These professionals might be found in human resources (HR), though HR professionals are traditionally adept at and focused on managing legal, policy and other types of transactions with employees. Their view is rightly based on protecting the business from missteps around regulations and benefits to employees required by law. When it comes to change and transformation, the mindset and professional capacity of those prepared to bring a growth and development lens to the environment are those educated and practiced in organization development (OD) or organization effectiveness (OE). In fact, OD/OE professionals might be considered the original change agents because we have always approached change with an understanding that it isn’t imposed so much as it is coached and facilitated. OD/OE professionals don’t do change on a leader’s behalf; we support a leader to lead change.

“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” ― Heraclitus

With great change, the likes of which the world is and has been experiencing, comes great nostalgia for what was. It can be a sense of loss enough to trigger the grieving process – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. The grief is evident on a social scale. We see it in the rise of nationalism, isolationism and authoritarianism across countries, in the resistance to immigration and integration.

It’s too bad that change has come so quickly that many haven’t had the chance to catch their breath, to build the necessary resilience. I am more than hopeful that the change occurring is making us better. Younger generations sense this. Older generations want what was, and cannot fathom a world, that they seem also resistant to accept, they helped create.

To those who work with change, this is all standard protocol. Those who work in change management consistently struggle to bestow leaders with the understanding that bringing people along matters, and in this our national leadership, across the board, has failed. Yet, in the observation that the change has happened on a scale and at a speed never before encountered, how can anyone be to blame?

No. We must all take up our share of the responsibility for making the transition, or at least stay out of the way of those prepared to do so.

Fascinating read: http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/05/a-dialogue-with-a-22-year-old-donald-trump-supporter/484232/.  Kudos to this dialogue occurring and to its publication.  We could certainly use much more of it.

I say kudos, because I have long held that the PC movement has caused more harm than good in that it has driven underground  this kind of critical dialogue. I am also intrigued at yet another revelation that the left disregarding the views of our fellow citizens on the right as “less than” has helped to create a divide unhealthy to American society.  Now, it is not lost on me that there are those who have purposely influenced a creation of ignorance to be exploited, so perhaps we could treat the situation more appropriately by acknowledging the requisite disenfranchisement that now exists?

Another observation brought to mind by this article is that men have long enjoyed dominant status in American society, and in any number of other societies around the globe. There is currently underway a global challenge to patriarchy. Some countries have made progress on what I witness to be a leveling off to a more egalitarian community. As the US traverses this process, males are undoubtedly experiencing a loss of status, and especially white men. The change is already in process, and those resistant perhaps see in Trump an uber-caricature of (white) male dominance they simply crave to save, and keep in mind this is most likely a subconscious reaction. Bias is not often in awareness, which is why it can be so potent.

It might also be debated that the decades long scrutiny of the Clintons, especially Hillary, plays into this as well.  Obama basically came out of the blue, so without Hillary’s requisite “baggage” from her longer term exposure to the existing elements, as a representative of minorities in American society.  Is the vitriolic reaction to a minority president not obvious by now?  And here comes, has been coming, a dominating female challenger (note that a black man usurped her long anticipated rise) to male dominance.  Is it possible the decades long scrutiny of her has been a subconscious effort to make her take her submissive place in patriarchal society?

The question becomes, how do the rest of us assist the transition? Help men see that they are simply experiencing what pretty much the rest of society has dealt with under their dominance? It must be an extremely sobering event for them, and let’s face it, it is not human nature to swallow pride so easily. Nope, that’s as vulnerable a position as apologizing.

Be well.  Be kind.  Bring compassion.

~ Jacqueline, Scholar-Practitioner of Human Systems