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Build a Change Platform, Not a Change Program

April 15, 2015

 

This month’s Gifted Leaders e-Newsletter features an article by Gary Hamel and Michele Zanini, cofounders of the Management Innovation eXchange (MIX). MIX is an open innovation project aimed at reinventing management for the 21st century. Current management practices emphasize control, discipline and efficiency above all else – and that’s a problem. To thrive in the 21st century, organizations must be adaptable, innovative, inspiring and socially accountable. That will require a genuine revolution in management principles and practices.

 

 

Highlights from the Article 

 

It’s time to rethink our traditional approach to change management. The phrase “change management” implies that deep change can be managed, like a large-scale construction project or an IT overhaul. But if change is truly transformational – if it breaks new ground – it can’t be predetermined.

 

When change programs are engineered, the solution space is limited by what people at the top can imagine. A change platform, by contrast, gives everyone the right to suggest strategic alternatives. The advantage: options that are diverse, radical, and nuanced.

 

Transformational change conventionally starts at the top because companies haven’t enabled it to start anywhere else. To make deep change proactive and pervasive, the responsibility for initiating change needs to be syndicated across the organization.

 

To be embraced, a change effort must be socially constructed in a process that gives everyone the right to set priorities, diagnose barriers, and generate options. The leader’s job isn’t to design a change program but to build a change platform – one that allows anyone to initiate change, recruit confederates, suggest solutions, and launch experiments.

 

Transformational change cannot be sustained without genuine commitment on the part of those who will be most affected. This commitment is best achieved by bidding out the change program’s “how” to everyone in the organization.

 

This approach means placing less emphasis on building a powerful project-management office and more on building self-organizing communities that identify, experiment, and eventually scale new initiatives. Change comes naturally when individuals have a platform that allows them to identify shared interests and to brainstorm solutions.

 

Effective change platforms:

 

  • encourage individuals to tackle significant organizational challenges; that is, those that are typically considered beyond an employee’s “pay grade” or sphere of influence.

  • foster honest and forthright discussion of root causes and, in the process, develop a shared view of the thorniest barriers.

  • elicit dozens (if not hundreds) of potential solutions rather than seeking to coalesce prematurely around a single approach; the goal is first to diverge, then to converge.

  • focus on generating a portfolio of experiments that can be conducted locally to help prove or disprove the components of a more general solution, as opposed to developing a single grand design.

  • encourage individuals to take personal responsibility for initiating the change they want to see and give them the resources and tools necessary to spur their thinking and imaginations.

 

Guiding a process of socially constructed change is neither quick nor easy – but it is possible and effective. The biggest obstacles to creating robust change platforms aren’t technical. The challenge lies in shifting the role of the executive from change agent in chief to change enabler in chief. This means devoting leadership attention to the creation of an environment where deep, proactive change can happen anywhere – and at any time – and inspiring the entire organization to swarm the most pressing issues.

 

 

Read the article here.

 

 

The Gifted Perspective

 

We wholeheartedly believe that we need to “change the way we change.” And, for this to occur there must be a complete paradigm shift in the practice of leadership in today’s organizations. As this month’s article suggests, leaders must move beyond paternalism, where leadership resides in the individual and those at the top of the organization. Instead, they must embrace the idea of leadership as a partnership, where it is a collective capacity that is widely distributed. Only then can leaders create “an environment where deep, proactive change can happen anywhere – and at any time.”

 

Are you ready to change your leadership paradigm and “build a change platform?” We’d love to help!

 

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