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I am always amazed by the breadth and depth of experience that people have, and the extent to which we share common ground - even if it is not immediately obvious. This week was characterized by a lively discussion around four (4) questions regarding organizational change and learning, and its impact on leadership and self. I will summarize the dialaoge within the context of these questions.

Question 1

1. Reflecting on your personal experience which of the three theoretical perspectives of organizational change would work best in your organization? Why?

The discussion in this thread seemed to suggest that Lewin's model, while relevant, is somewhat linear and datesd as compared to other models for organizational change and renewal. Several models of change where shared, with various factors identified as supporting meaningful organizational change: In the Beckhard-Gleicher Model, change is possible when the level of: D = Dissatisfaction with the status quo, and the clarity of
V = Vision of what is possible; and the grasp of
F = First, concrete steps that can be taken towards the vision, can combine to be greater than,
R = Resistance to the Change.

Another model discussed by Howard, as the Cultural Changes Models which includes Cultural incrementalism (Gagliardi) - to include new assumptions, new values, and new artifacts; and the Cultural Dynamics Model (Hatch) – which depicts culture as a process whereby symbols, artifacts, and assumptions are continually created, either internally or externally. Cultural language, values and symbolism often act as tipping points, in supporting an organization to move in one direction vs. another. The point was also made that theory is theory, and may not yield results as espoused or anticipated by theoretical musings.

Question 2

2. Using your experience as a guide, who have symbols been used in organizational changes, and to what effect? Were they successful or not? How would you use them, or what might have you changed?

Organizations cannot be changed in a meaningful or sustainable way by cosmetic touch-ups or interior or exterior renovations. One thread focused on an organization which tried to create an optimal environment to attract, retain and motivate staff. Soon after the initial euphoria, excitement was brought back to reality with a recognition that hard work was required by 'senior leaders to establish the vision, beliefs and strategy of the organization as well as the methodologies to assist in implementing whole systems change in complex organizations'.

Another thread discussed the importance of creating a 'culture of recognition', particularly in another culture (India), and in asking how Cultural Incrementalism could work in changing, or challenging core assumptions. Some of the ideas shared include: (a) visibility and program awareness over the medium term; (b) a Wall of Fame (i.e., formal recognition for managers who 'symbolize' the culture of recognition, and change; (3) Key Messaging, as crafted by the leaders, to facilitate dialogue and interpretation among stakeholders; and (d) Share Testimonials about peer-to-peer recognition, and increased employee performance.

Question 3

3. Many organizational changes fail to achieve desired end results. From your experience, examine why is this the case, who pays the price for failure, or less than stellar success? What must occur to achieve higher rates of success?

Howard introduced us to Kotter's (Kotter, 1996, 2002) eight-step model for introducing change in an organization including:

  1. Establish a Sense of Urgency
  2. Create the Guiding Coalition
  3. Develop a Vision and Strategy
  4. Communicate the Change Vision
  5. Empower Broad-Based Action
  6. Generate Short-Term Wins
  7. Consolidate Gains and Produce More Wins
  8. Anchor New Approach in Culture 

He shared Kotter's thinking that in order for these changes to endure, it must include ALL of the eight (8) steps, and be rooted in a sense of urgency.

Question 4

4. What is involved in making organizational change enduring and sustainable? Is it a top-down or grassroots process? For whom? Please support with specific examples from your experience; identify possible interventions that you might consider, to support change over the longer-term (i.e. 5+ years).

This thread generated a lively discussion around models of engagement and organizational change in general, and specifically, for nonprofits.

Jill shared her belief that people at all levels of the organization need to be engaged in change and learning, particularly since today's organizations are complex (and operate in a complex environment); too complex for a single person to 'have all the answers to drive the innovations, visions, strategies and answers to sustain themselves long term.' In today's business world, a 5-year time horizon is a very long time, and it's very hard to predict changes from year to year, let alone in 5 years. Concerns were expressed about the degree of readiness for change, before decisions to act could be made, for whom and by whom.

Another viewpoint, was that cultural change is a combination top-down and grassroots effort. In the case of a nonprofit, Sangita shared that an ED’s or Board’s involvement in a culture change process could make a significant difference in facilitating involvement and participation from both perspectives and levels.

Results-Based Management (for nonprofits)

One of the models shared was Ken Wilber’s 4 Quadrants of Change model. Another model shared was the Baldrige model/framework for organizational assessment, replete with a Balanced Scorecard (BS) with Mission Goals, and and a strategic budgeting process aligned with the mission goals. This tool (with accompanying detail and resource materials) shared the 4 perspectives of the BS Approach(!) used in a nonprofit organizational example: (1) Financial (cost efficiency, solvency, and funding levels); (2) Learning, Growth and Innovation; (3) Internal (business practices and efficiencies, service benchmarks; and (4) Customer Satisfaction. The BS also focused on developing specific and meaningful metrics to measure success - including outputs and outcomes.

Susan shared her knowledge regarding the use of logic models as maps for intended results, and provided resources from the Kellogg Foundation. Having a clear handle on organizational levers, inputs, outputs and outcomes could make the difference between successful grant funding and organizational sustainability (or not)

Susan also shared her knowledge regarding the McKinsey Capacity Building Assessment – 'a tool for gauging where a non-profit is regarding its capability in carrying out its mission and goals by focusing on: (1) a clear translation of the vision into practical steps; (2) setting up strategy goals and performance targets; (3) measuring results; and (4) examining partnerships and alliances for performance; and (5) a positive staff development plan, including a skill-building component.