Although large parts of the Change Journey are about reflection and dialogue, actions are important to implement change. The same is true for decisions. Without decisions, there are no actions. Without actions, there is no change. Many change projects get stuck in endless reflection and discussion rounds and nothing gets done. On the other side, if activities are implemented without the existence of trust, many people will boycott them and will try to make sure that the project fails.
Every social system including organizations has its explicit or implicit rules of how and by whom decisions are made and how activities are launched. As we have seen in systems with a high degree of bureaucracy (this can be public and private organizations), taking decisions and launching activities can take a long time. On the other side quick decisions and actions which are not properly communicated and to which people do not buy in create resistance and cause the system to become unstable.
To create sustainable change, the teams leading the change effort have to make a purposeful decision about who needs to be involved in the decision process.
Th figure above is based on a design Peter Senge has provided in his famous Fifth Discipline Fieldbook. It shows the different steps of involvement and participation in change processes:
"Telling" means that decisions about the change process are taken on the highest managerial level. Stakeholders / employees have only the choice of accepting the top-down plan or to leave the system. Implementing an entire chance process top-down leads to frustration and refusal of co-operation.
"Selling" means that change plans are designed at top-level and stakeholders are invited to join in--the change is advocated. The limitation of selling lays in the fact, that the top management wants to hear a "yes", and the staff wants to hear that they will keep their jobs. So, most will give a compliant "yes", which is not a safe base for commitment.
"Testing", whilst still a top-down approach, lays the vision out for inspection by the stakeholders and asks for their comments. The management intends to find out whether stakeholders support the change process, and opens up for proposals. Testing can be done on a limited scale ("piloting") perhaps better to expand, to differentiate between representation and piloting, but could also concern the whole system. The vision remains as is, but the way to reach the vision is subject to negotiations between the different stakeholder groups.
"Consulting" is the preferred mechanism for a management that recognises that it can not possibly have all the answers. Consulting the stakeholders about the change, strengthens the vision of change. In recent time, many tools have been developed to allow a large number of stakeholders to participate in the planning process. However, such a process takes time and requires commitment at the top-level to correct initial decisions.
"Co-creating" means developing a vision jointly with stakeholders from the very beginning. It secures the highest degree of ownership.
Questions for Deeper Exploration
- Where all our actions come from?
- What are our leadership patterns and how do they need to change?
- How can we take decisions in times of uncertainty?
- How can we encourage people to be courageous?