In 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:
- Change vs. Continuity
- Planning vs. Piloting/Experimentation
- Standardization vs. Autonomous Practices
- Pressure for Progress vs. Discovery
- 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:
- 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?
- To manage planning and experimentation, ask: How do we balance our planning efforts with wise action that moves progress forward?
- 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.
Research has shown that 70% of all change efforts fail. So faced with that daunting statistic, what can leaders do to ensure that their change effort is successful? According to a 2010 transformational change survey conducted by McKinsey and Company, organizations that implemented successful change efforts had three elements in common.
1) STRUCTURE: The change effort was organized into a clear structure with easily understandable parts
2) OWNERSHIP: Roles and responsibilities were clear and people felt accountable for delivering results
3) EVALUATION: Clear metrics and milestones were set to ensure that progress and impact were rigorously tracked.
Put together, these three elements form an engine for change that supports and drives progress. In applying these three elements to your change efforts, it can be helpful ask the following questions:
- Are the phases of this change effort easy to understand?
- What might I need to do to communicate the structure more clearly?
- What is confusing to people?
- How can it be simplified so that it is easy to understand?
- Do people and teams involved in implementing the change understand their roles?
- What is their decision-making authority?
- What is their span of control?
- How are people and teams being held accountable?
- How is this being communicated?
- What will success look like?
- What metrics have been set? Are they easy to measure? Or are they ambiguous?
- What milestones are in place?
- Are there incentives and rewards paired with the metrics and milestones?
In your experience, have you found that building in structure, ownership, and evaluation elements have supported your change efforts?