What do you picture when someone talks about ‘change management’?

Like me do you picture a process and a person in charge?

What do you hear when someone talks about their organisation going through a big change?

Do you imagine restructures, with some people being moved to new roles, new departments being created, old ones being shut and some people let go?

Then, like me, do you think “not again” and “we’d only just changed” and feel “I’ve not got the energy for this”?

We tend to think in linear ways as humans. We crave certainty, stability, beginnings, middles and ends. The way we structure time is linear. Unless you’ve been watching Dark or Tenet where our concept of time is challenged and you have to suspend your usual understanding of time to even begin to understand them!

Before Covid-19, I’d been thinking about how change is actually a constant. More organic than linear. Even if you look at nature; it loves patterns, symmetries and often things grow in an expansive way, like a flower opening up or an apple growing larger, rather than linear. Even linear plants aren’t that linear – just look at bamboo.

I’ve been thinking that we need to work out a better way to be more fluid in a permanently changeable environment (see also the VUCA model which is based this). It might also help I’ve been using a system called GTD to organise my time better and it works with energy levels to create fluidity in your ‘to do lists’, rather than more traditional time management methodologies.

In the strengths world we talk a lot about feeling connected and energised by your work (see Csikszentmihalyi’s work on flow which started it all). Being in flow on tasks that really draw you in.  Feeling challenged and stretched in a good way. Certainly, when I’m working on something that draws on my strengths it’s not just a feeling of capability I have, or the fact I can see I’m doing good work but I’m really present emotionally as well. I’m not distracted and I feel like I’m ‘at one’.

So when it comes to responding to my ever-changing environment with emails coming in, phone calls, requests for urgent support, pre-planned meetings and work in my diary with deadlines – then it constantly gets juggled. When it’s going well, I feel this juggling is under control and there is flexibility in my systems, especially if I’ve made sure a significant amount of what I’ve got on is playing to my strengths, skills and knowledge.

The second thing that helps me in this ever-changing environment is if I feel, overall, everything is taking me in the direction of where I want to go and who I want to be. The dream of the impact I want to make on the world. The feeling of being useful and adding to society. If it’s all taking me towards, rather than away from my purpose, then work feels worthwhile (also see Martin Seligman’s work and his Perma model for psychological wellbeing).

Of course I know I’m going to make mistakes. I often do and I often fail. However, I’ve come to discover these are the moments where I can build something better. I hold them lightly, process the guilt quickly, work out what did go okay and do more of that. Yes, sometimes I slip down that fixed mindset of having failed. But most of the time, I’m able to take a growth mindset viewpoint and see it all as part of my journey to being a better person (see Carol Dweck’s research in this area on fixed versus growth mindsets). Aren’t we all just ‘work in progress’? Our environment influences our confidence to do this (see Amy Edmondson’s work on psychological safety).

Often, it’s also about tweaking. Ben Hunt-Davis in ‘Will it make the boat go faster’ talks about how small changes cumulatively make the difference; so just keep refining to get better. This is so true in life as there is little we can make happen over-night. Being clear about the outcomes I’m trying to achieve really helps here. Do I want better work-life blend? Do I want to be healthier and live longer? Do I want to help my customers build better businesses? Knowing those are my outcomes helps me tweak what I do to take me further along the way.

In all of this, people are a foundation and an important bedrock to my life. We are social beings. Our power is in when we come together to work on a common goal. We are super-creative as a species. I’m proud of that. I know people bring out the better in me. They help me learn and grow. They help me build my confidence and deliver better work (see Patrick Lencioni’s work on dysfunctional teams to find out how). I proactively seek to connect with and collaborate with people.

So when I think about change – I think about it from nature’s perspective – it’s organic, it’s always happening, there is beauty in it if we choose to look. My colleagues at Co-Creation and I therefore propose when thinking about managing change in organisations we could take a new perspective by:

  • Helping people find and focus on their purpose and how that connects to the organisation’s purpose. This gives us a reason for being and a positive focus, no matter what’s happening.
  • Ensuring we have a human-centric approach, that people rather than money are at the heart of decisions. The financial side comes from engaged people performing well; that’s the bedrock.
  • That we actively seek diversity and inclusivity in our teams and organisations. Helping people develop unconditional positive regard for others; helping them see the benefits of healthy conflict and the power of having different points of view.
  • That we embrace that people do things in different ways and encouraging a stronger focus on outcomes and impact than the detailed step-by-step how something should be done. This enables us to play to our strengths and be diverse.
  • That we have flexibility in our systems and processes to accommodate this. Making greater use of values and principles to guide decisions and actions. Enabling our business systems to respond more organically and evolve as our environments, customers and people change. Working on the basis nothing is stable.
  • That we create psychologically safe environments that help people have a growth mindset. To feel comfortable taking appropriate risks. Able to innovate, fail quickly and learn fast. Developing our own curiosity and capacity to learn and grow.

So there you have it, our new mantra for change management. Focus on purpose, be human-centric, create inclusivity and diversity, measure by outcomes and impact to enable people to play to their strengths, have flexible systems and processes, and encourage a growth mindset.

At Co-Creation we are passionate about helping our customers create these types of environments to help their people succeed and create high performing organisations. If you want to know more about how then contact us on  info@co-creation.group