Impact's Head of Creative Change, Dom Fitch, digs deep into the concept of living changerously.
This is my Nordic butter spreader – there are many Nordic butter spreaders like this but this is my Nordic butter spreader…
At a recent work offsite we learnt how to make a Nordic butter scraper. Here is a picture of mine.
A thing of beauty I think you’ll agree!
Here is a picture of me making it …
A thing of beauty I think you’ll agree…
The butter scraper started as a branch from an Ash tree. It started as an Ash tree. It started as a sapling. It started as a seed. It started as another Ash Tree…It started…You get the point.
The further you peel back the layers you reveal that it had a history, it was already something before I altered it. Just like an organisation going through a change process, it had a history, it had roots.
I am immensely proud of it. It is through the lens of this humble butter scraper that I’d like to discuss some ideas about Organisational Change.
I was genuinely surprised how quickly the process of creating this scraper started to matter. When I realised what I was whittling vaguely resembled a butter knife it became important. With each incision and whittle the piece of wood became shaped and honed. It was my butter scraper. Quite soon every scrape became incredibly important, when a colleague asked to look at it, I would tentatively hand it over and then quickly ask for it back.
It’s a very simple realisation but people own what they create. Not ownership in the material sense but ownership in terms of the process of creation.
The same is true within organisations. Meaningful change happens when people are empowered to own the change that needs to be implemented. Not just what needs to change but the wider purpose behind the changes.
People need to be enthused by the potential for change. They need to see and feel the benefits of change. They need to feel OK about letting go of the old stuff and embracing the new stuff. People who do the work that is being changed must do the change work. People own what they create.
We need to reframe the way we look at the core challenges organisations are facing. Executive expertise is not enough to provide the catalyst for meaningful long term change in organisations. If organisational change programmes aren’t changing the way things are done or what things are done then they aren’t doing anything meaningful. And without meaning nothing will change.
Oftentimes organisational change is instigated by senior leaders. Leavers are cranked, new systems proposed, old models overhauled, teams restructured and new processes engineered and invented.
These changes are often conceived in partnership with a consultancy firm and designed by people who will not ultimately implement them.
It is our view that this approach to organisational change is not fit for purpose, it is often resisted by the people in the organisation who are expected to change as they have been left out of the process.
We need a holistic approach to change, new energies, risk taking and crucially learning.
People learning to do work differently or learning to do different work. Shifting behaviour means shifting mindsets, challenging assumptions and engaging with a process of learning.
Change requires participation, collaboration and those in turn need people to be skilled in talking together, in learning together.
With engagement and motivation the focus changes from “changing” to “creating”. When people can clearly see an inspiring future, feel a sense of adventure and hear the buzz of expectation they will want to help create the success. They will forget they are changing and focus on the process of creation. People own what they create.
Real change is underpinned by creativity and innovation. Innovation is about new ways of how something is done, how a problem is solved.
Creativity on the other hand is inventing something new or novel, a new product or service, something that didn’t exist before.
For us, organisations will only thrive if their leaders are able to create something new. Innovation is vitally important but isn’t enough. We want to inspire and develop creativity in leadership in organisations in ways that lead to intentional change. We want to inspire individuals to look forward with hope and curiosity. We want people to own what they create.
3 guiding principles to consider.
- An organisation is a collection of people; for the organisation to change, the people within that organisation need to change how they work or what they do.
- People own what they create, so, the people who do the work that is being changed must be involved in the change work and have a shared purpose and direction for that change.
- Dialogue and collaboration at all levels are essential to effective change, since this will maximize learning and understanding which is at the heart of any change process, whether that be learning to do work differently or learning to do different work.