Change, complexity and creativity

“Organisations succeed when leaders recognise change AND are able to implement change effectively” – Bill Pasmore

Bill Pasmore nails it in his book Leading Continuous Change – Navigating Churn in the Real World.

Is it really as easy as it sounds?…

The quantity, complexity and speed of change in organisations is increasing. The nature of the problems that leaders face cannot be solved with existing thinking and existing solutions, and instead require new levels of thinking, creativity and innovation. Organisations consist of people – so the real change happens when people change. The leader’s job is to create the conditions in which people can positively orientate towards the change on all levels including thinking, feeling and actions.Leaders can no longer expect to have all the answers, all of the time and cannot expect to drive change in a linear and rational way. The empathetic relationship between a leader and their followers, a willingness to tap into the collective wisdom of those affected and having the edge to drive things forward are all key skills.

Globally leaders are grappling with change on a daily basis yet repeated studies show that at least 50% of changes fail.

Here is what we believe about change, complexity and creativity…..

We recognise the presence of both change and transition in any successful change.

Change is the process through which something becomes different (for example a business process changes) and transition is the internal journey that a person goes through which allows them to let go of the old way of working or being and embrace the new way of working or being. Successful change leaders recognise and attend to both change AND transition.

We understand that change is multi-dimensional.

Change has many flavours. It can be self-initiated or imposed, planned or emergent, transactional or transformational, discreet or complex and continuous, participative or dictated, fast or slow, incremental or disruptive. All change is different and there is not one single approach that can be applied to all change scenarios. Each individual, each organisation will require a unique road map for navigating their specific change.

We recognise the difference between change and continuous, complex change.

Change is a contained process in which a definable thing becomes different. But most organisations aren’t dealing with a single, isolated change, they are dealing with lots of connected changes. Pasmore describes the change picture in most organisations as ‘complex, continuous change which is defined as a series of overlapping planned and unplanned changes that are interdependent’ and which ‘compete for time, attention and resources with other changes’. It is worth acknowledging that most leaders are dealing with continuous, complex change and need to be fully equipped in order to respond accordingly.

Change happens when leaders create advocates.

Leaders can’t drive change on their own, they need advocates of change that positively infect the business with a compelling change message that wins hearts and minds. By focusing on creating advocates a leader can create a critical mass of support which helps the change reach its tipping point.

Thinking needs to be as sophisticated as the problem that it’s trying to address.

Leaders can’t deal with complex, sophisticated issues using simple, one dimensional thinking. Leaders need to develop a different level of thinking enabling them to deal with complex, multi-faceted change.

Creativity and innovation are an essential part of a leader’s change toolkit.

Most organisations are facing some form of disruptive change. Disruptive change happens when the way things are currently done is suddenly and unexpected uprooted. It can’t be dealt with using current ways of doing things or incremental changes to those ways of doing things – it requires creativity (the creation of something new and valuable) and innovation (the implementation of the new thing in a way that realises the value). Tapping into creativity means learning to turn down the volume on our rational brain and turn up the volume on our creative brain. Through reconnecting with their own personal creative genius leaders can be encouraged to be more creative and create environments in which others can be creative.

Acknowledging that change can be complex, diverse and unique, and that any approach required to manage that change needs to reflect that complexity, is one of the greatest lessons an organisation can learn.

What do you think?

Written by Fiona Smith.

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