Continuous Change – Is this our destination?


Reading the current output of the major research organisations, it’s clear that we are navigating a time of change. Understanding the challenges we face, the need for agility in leveraging opportunities presented and addressing rapidly evolving threats requires a shift in the way we currently view change.

Some time back I was attending a change forum for a major programme in an enterprise. The group was struggling to identify why the communications they were providing weren’t realising the outcome they desired. One of the team challenged: “We need to show the destination, so who can draw that up?” The room was silent, and for good reason.

Much current change methodology is centered on the idea of states. There is the “current” state, which is sub-optimal, and the “future” state, which is much better. Getting from origin to destination is the challenge of change for most practitioners. It also provides reassurance, the idea of a time when one can reflect on a job well-done, when peace and harmony returns.

Evidence, though, points towards an increasing number of change initiatives within organisations. Not the effect of a “Continuous Improvement” approach, but overlapping strategic initiatives with intersecting shifts in required behaviours making dramatic demands of the staff. Sure, some of these are not required or just add noise, but it is clear that there is a full pipeline of inputs that require the response of any organisation that wishes to be successful and that this is gaining velocity.

The frequency of disruptors demands we revisit the “state” model of change. It means moving away from the “Unfreeze, change, refreeze” approach to something more agile: continuous change. That means people understanding their role in much broader terms than through the activities they execute.

What does it means for change experts? It means understanding that the “refreeze” may never come, making a choice to embrace this and discarding the idea that one can ever define an end. It means understanding our initiative in terms of the changes it brings, not as an effort to reach a destination. It means a move away from viewing our role as being guides through change, towards equipping an organisation to respond quickly to their environment in an agile fashion.

We’ll look at this again in the future.

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