Common pitfalls in leading change

pitfallIn their research on transformational change, Scott Keller and Colin Price, authors of Beyond Performance, have identified common pitfalls that organizations typically encounter on their change journey. Interestingly enough, these pitfalls are all paradoxes that people struggle with in organizational life.

For example, here are a few:

  1. Change vs. Continuity
  2. Planning vs. Piloting/Experimentation
  3. Standardization vs. Autonomous Practices
  4. Pressure for Progress vs. Discovery
  5. Independent Initiatives vs. Connected Initiatives

The key to managing any of these pitfalls is to see them not as EITHER/OR solutions, but to view them as BOTH/AND equations.  For instance:

  1. To manage change and continuity, ask:  What do we need to do to preserve the core of the excellent education we provide, but make room for leaps of innovation that will support student success?
  2. To manage planning and experimentation, ask: How do we balance our planning efforts with wise action that moves progress forward?
  3. To manage standardization and autonomy, ask: What processes would benefit from standardization across our campuses and where is it best to allow for autonomy among colleges and universities?

Well, you get the picture. But what if mere questioning doesn’t help get you unstuck when you are dealing with one of these common pitfalls? That’s when it’s helpful to do some deeper exploratory work.  Using a tool called a polarity map can be extraordinarily helpful to discover what what underlying values and mindsets are responsible for polarizing people in the organization. Most importantly, the process of polarity mapping can help you explore common ground and strategies for moving forward, so you can manage the dilemma effectively.

For resources on understanding polarities, see: Barry Johnson’s book on Polarity Management or a Managing Polarities seminar available through our Talent Management team at MnSCU.

Anita Rios

 

 

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