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ChangingMinds Blog! > Blog Archive > 02-Sep-11


Friday 02-September-11

Flowing into change

There seems to be a pattern that recurs when implementing change in organisations. I have seen it a number of times and have learned to go with it rather than fight it -- in this way I have been able to successfully implement changes that seemed to be going astray. Perhaps it's not a coincidence that I studied Tai Chi for many years, in which you move your opponent by flowing with them, not pressing against them.

One of the principles I try to use is simplification. If there is a new procedure, form or software system, then the acceptance of it is often directly related to how easy it is to use.

This question of getting acceptance is complex, and simplicity is not the only issue. People need to feel a sense of ownership and will achieve this by tinkering with your careful design. The result can easily be a camel (which is what you get when a diverse committee is asked to design a horse).

Rather than fight back, I often go with these requests, particularly when they are made by senior people (who, in the face of change, are usually asserting their power). So the system grows. And guess what? People, including the tinkerers, complain that it is too complex and time-consuming. So I listen with care and offer to simplify it. Having been overloaded, they are now ready for a simpler solution. The final solution is seldom the same as the original simple idea and is often a step better as it integrates experience gained. It also allows people to feel this is 'their' solution and so feel and take ownership.

In support of the simpler final solution I sometimes do a side experiment with a willing early adopter to provide evidence and head off resistance.

This is a classic change story, where the final solution is a product of the journey, not a magical answer that the 'back-room boys' produce. It includes drama, protagonists and antagonists. As a change manager I don't fight the organisational dynamic: I flow with it, nudging it in the right direction until we get to a good conclusion.

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