How to Change an Organization Without Blowing It Up
Too often, conventional approaches to organizational transformation resemble the Big Bang theory. Change occurs all at once, on a large scale, and often in response to crisis. Yet we know from a great deal of experience that Big Bang transformation attempts often fail, fostering employee discontent and producing mediocre solutions with little lasting impact.
Instead of undertaking a risky, large-scale makeover, organizations can seed transformation by collectively uncovering “everyday disconnects” "Ò the disparities between our expectations about how work is carried out and how it is actually is. The discovery of such disconnects encourages people to think about how the work might be done differently. Continuously pursuing these smaller-scale changes "Ò and then weaving them together "Ò offers a practical middle path between large-scale transformation and smallscale pilot projects that run the risk of producing too little too late.
The author has found that organizations take three approaches to discovery that are both particularly effective for uncovering everyday disconnects in the organization’s work and seeding transformation from the bottom up. These techniques can be used together. The three techniques are:
- Work Discovery Instead of assuming that you know how work is designed, examine it firsthand as it is actually conducted. Determine how to turn the (inevitable) surprises you uncover into assets.
- Better Practices Instead of simply adopting the best practices of other organizations, screen the way work gets done in your organization through those best practices to generate new ideas. In other words, use best practices to generate even better practices.
- Test Training Instead of locking down standard operating procedures during training, experiment with other, potentially better possibilities for changing the way the work will get done. Use training for testing these possibilities.