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    Quickest Rate of Change - Part 2

    By Mark McCatty, Leadership & Team Advisor

    In a previous blog, we discussed the first 2 maxims of change. The first maxim [people do not resist change; they resist being changed] helps us understand the second axiom [in every change some people will be unhappy with some facet of the change]. The key for change acceptance then is to recognize that successful change must not be focused on changing people, but rather on helping people to be part of the change. Let’s focus this blog on generating more constructive emergent change that will encourage people to actually lead positive constructive efforts.

    There are two types of change that organizations deal with. The two types of change are planned change and emergent change. Planned change is top-down and mainly driven by management. While emergent change is bottom-up and comes mostly from employee levels.   

    Planned change is compelled by a business need that the management structure observes. The desire of management is that those responsible for implementing the change will understand, accept, and be fully devoted to carry-out the change initiative.

    Emergent change is driven from lower in the organization. Fruitful emergent change, although driven by those lower in the organization’s structure, requires that the change be supported by those higher in the organization. Support from those at the top is desirable because it’s those individuals that have the authority and capability to support the emergent change effort – or quickly kill it.


    The Value of Emergent Change

    One key characteristic of a healthy organization is a concentrated effort by all employees to innovate in ways designed for continuous improvement. This requires full-engagement on the part of the employees, as well as the ability to initiate improvement ideas that create positive contributions to the business’ goals. In many instances businesses fail in this area because; employees lack the level of engagement and attention required to generate real innovation, employees are unfamiliar with the finer elements of their business processes or the broader strategic position of the business, or the employees do not have access to crucial data points in a way that allows for rapid response. Lastly, failure to achieve a successful emergent change state is due to the fact that employees are not empowered to use their knowledge and experience to make important business changes, and any ideas offered are not welcome by their management structure.

    There are 3 elements in a culture that are required to drive and support emergent change. These elements are:

    1.   A workforce that is business literate. The more they understand the business current and desired state, the more effectively they can contribute to those objectives.

    2.    A workforce which understands that they have permission to act. If they understand the potential impact that they can have and they feel empowered to use their talents, the more likely they will engage in improvement activities.

    3.    A workplace climate that encourages people to challenge business norms and offer their ideas. When there is a climate of fear or hostility there will be little innovation. Many times, those that challenge the status quo are labeled as trouble-makers or malcontents. The negative labels given to these employees do great damage and discourage the very behaviors that are so greatly desired.

    The Key Driver for Emergent Change: Leadership

    Management must be motivated to share strategic business information. When employees are expected to make positive contributions, they must have complete access to information which is delivered in a timely manner. Managers must be able to assist the workforce in developing a clear understanding of the power everyone [individually and collectively] holds to impact the business goals. Management must create and nurture a climate where alternative ideas and challenges are not only invited, but are expected. Growth happens through change. And change requires thinking and doing things differently.

    And managers must act more like leaders in their communication habits and coaching skills. The Coaching Habit, by Michael Stanier [Book], addresses the fact that current leadership coaching habits are frequently bad habits disguised as coaching efforts. To be truly effective at leading these important improvement efforts, true coaching habits must be developed and deployed daily. Everything rises or falls on leadership. Emergent change is no exception.

    Whether the change is planned or emergent, organizational leaders can use these change activities to engage all those stakeholders that will make or break the change effort. The net result will be much less frustration with the lack of participation and a much higher level of changes realized. Leaders lead change.


    Mark McCatty - Leadership & Team Advisor

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    As a leadership and team advisor, I have helped numerous organizations, through speaker presentations, group training, and individual coaching, to meet the challenge of creating engaging and purposeful work environments. 

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