When the authors were children, the patterns of life were more predictable. For example, Dave was brought up in a seaside town 50 miles from London, but few people ventured to the big city. Life was conducted within a bicycle ride of home. Almost no one took overseas vacations. Rural life continued almost untouched by factory-
farming methods. Regional accents flourished. Organizations endured, year after year, with little apparent change. People looked for careers that gave them security for life. Attitudes were inculcated by local worthies. The world felt stable and small.
Now almost everything is different. Increasingly, the world is a global village. The Internet and e-mail have connected people across continents. Culture is multinational and heroes are global. Organizations change their structure and scope of operations with increasing frequency. An ever-increasing array of brilliantly innovative new prod-
ucts simultaneously captures the imagination of consumers in Hong Kong, Los Angeles, and London. People reshape their lives in continuous adaptation to changing circum-
stances. The world is indeed a different place.
The scale and scope of social, political, and economic change means that individuals can no longer rely on their lives following a predictable pattern. We need the skills to conceptualize what is happening, predict future changes, develop personal strategies, and adapt to new technologies, pressures, and opportunities.
Managers, especially, need the skills to manage change. These can be categorized under four headings:
- Preparing to manage change
- The skills of tracking environmental, social, political, economic, technological, and industrial forces for change
- The skills of conceptualizing external changes and detecting meaningful patterns
- Articulating choices
- The skills of predicting the likely flow of changes and detecting both opportunities and threats—scenarios of what might happen
- The skills of exploring possible future strategies
- Visioning the future
- The skills of auditing one’s own organization in order to determine current strengths and weaknesses
- The skills of developing a vision of the future that provides a template to effect the transformation of the organization
- Implementing change programs
- The skills of planning effective change programs
- The skills of leading and implementing change programs
Today’s ways of thinking about organizational change are radically different from those of even ten years ago. The change models we use today are holistic and multi-dimensional. No longer do we use the metaphor of the organization as a puppet theater with the master puppeteer (top management) pulling the strings and the puppets (everyone else in the organization) behaving as commanded. Today we use the metaphor of the organization as a brain with intelligence distributed widely: change being initiated and implemented from many sources.
Change is indivisible from the process of formulating and implementing corporate strategy. In fact, the strategic process is the way organizations manage change on the grand scale, just as a campaign plan is the military template for orchestrating change on the battlefield. For this reason, many of the exercises in this book explore aspects of corporate strategy, which is the primary device for aligning organizations behind a coherent vision of what purposes are served and how those purposes will be achieved. Change is, therefore, not defined as a random or purely adaptive phenomenon, but a set of planned initiatives toward a coherent strategic intent.
This definition of change is particularly important for those planning change in commercial organizations. Current thinking in relation to a firm’s competitive strength indi-
cates that a coherent and tested definition of what real value the company provides (and intends to provide) is at the heart of success when it can be provided within budget. Accordingly, change programs need to be coordinated toward:
- Understanding the potential sources of competitive advantage.
- Identifying what value the firm provides at the present time.
- Identifying the potential added value that the firm could provide.
- Understanding the real drivers of costs within the firm.
- Developing a coherent competitive strategy.
- Communicating the elements of the competitive strategy to all concerned.
- Nourishing the change processes necessary to refine and implement the chosen competitive strategy.
- Continuously questioning and redeveloping the strategic intent of the firm within a context of environmental change.
The Scope of Change
Current thinking about change emphasizes that sustainable advantage is derived from the accumulation of a myriad of minor developments rather than a few big breakthroughs. Change is therefore primarily incremental and additive, and everyone within the organization needs to be involved in making change happen.
In many organizations, the concept that everyone should be dynamically involved in managing change is foreign. Rather, people lower down in organizations tend to adopt the attitude that their role is that of “an underling”! Of course, once a subservient stance is taken, the person becomes disempowered and looks upward in search of initiatives rather than taking self-driven initiatives. It is this old-fashioned hierarchical concept of organization that undermines progress toward an organization for the future—one that needs to be a continuously adapting, evolving, and externally focused organization that has institutionalized change within an overall strategic intent.
Challenge, therefore, needs to be harmoniously undertaken at several levels. These include the following:
- The individual level—adopting the attitudes and acquiring the skills to manage continuous personal development
- The team level—developing a close, energetic, effective, and supportive team capable of managing cooperation toward collective objectives
- The inter-team level—building effective linkages between different departments, groups, and functions
- The strategy formation level—ensuring continuous analysis of the organization with appropriate processes for developing sustainable competitive strategies
- The structural level—developing the organization’s structure to fulfill the identified strategy at minimum cost
- The cultural level—developing the values and attitudes of the organization to instill pride in performance
- The stakeholders’ level—identifying all those who have an interest in the organization and building bridges with each stakeholder
The facilitator can create the preconditions for individuals, teams, and organizations to undertake the continuous change processes outlined above. It is the task of the
facilitator to create and sustain what is becoming known as “the learning organization” in that continuous evolution is the natural condition.
This requires that at every organizational level, ongoing learning from experience is achieved. Experiments have to be undertaken and the results reviewed in order to extract learning points. There is a flow between the four processes of objective setting, decision making, action, and learning. Each is vital; each requires different skills; each
informs the next process.
The facilitator will often conduct training courses and workshops to develop relevant attitudes and skills. This provides the focus of development, but the skills acquired need
to be implemented before real learning takes place. This is the principle of “action learning” and underlies the construction of the exercises in this book.
Educationalists have demonstrated in many different settings that personal experience is a precondition for learning that results in behavior change. Appreciation, instruction, or didactic methods are insufficient. Practical experience that directly involved the learner is essential if real development is going to take place.
This insight is applicable to all age groups—from school children to adult learners. However, the benefits of experiential learning are most apparent with mature adults who have already developed their personal constructs or “world views.” Only the first-hand realization of one’s inadequacy generates focused insight and sufficient energy for
The activities in this book are designed to facilitate learning in the area of managing change. The primary audience is managers and management students, but many of the activities can be used with a wide variety of professional staff. Suggestions regarding the target audience for specific activities are given in the introductory notes.
Each of the 25 activities in this book provides the opportunity to conduct a structured experiment into the reality of the change process. Clear objectives are laid out in each case. Preparatory notes are included and the relevant materials are provided for photocopying.
The facilitator will choose which activities are relevant to a particular audience. We have found the following guidelines helpful:
- Choose activities that relate to the strategic objectives of the organization.
- Work with volunteers whenever possible.
- Take great care to explain the reasons why activities are being undertaken.
- Allow sufficient time for completion and reflection. Learning points often emerge only after extended discussion.
- Treat the activities seriously. Prevent interruptions.
- Watch out for anyone who is embarrassed or appears to be distressed by the process. Give professional follow-up counseling if required.
- Adapt the activities to suit the particular needs of the client group, but experiment first before you undertake the activity for real.
- As a facilitator, make sure you experience each activity from a participant’s point of view.
- Record the outcome of discussions and circulate summary notes whenever possible.
- Set aside time for a facilitator’s review. Practice what you preach!