“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”
• Albert Einstein
You have a brilliant idea to progress your organization, yet you hesitate to bring it forward. When you tried to manage change in the past, team members rebelled. You wish they could share in your vision.
Have you ever seen a starling murmuration? They are vivid visual representations of leading change. The action of one bird triggers a ripple of motion through the rest. Although it can be difficult to pinpoint where the impulse begins, it echoes to create swirling and ever-evolving patterns of motion in flight.
“Starling flocks … are best described with equations of ‘critical transitions’ – systems that are poised to tip, to be almost instantly and completely transformed, like metals becoming magnetized or liquid turning to gas. Each starling in a flock is connected to every other.”
• Wired Magazine’s Brandon Kiem
Other types of systems, from human social groups to ecosystems, immune systems and the stock market, can behave in similar ways.
Once, we thought of change as a somewhat mechanical process that could be designed and managed. Change management involves planning, organization, budgeting, staffing, measurement and solutions. Set into motion, it is expected – for the most part – to work in predictable and linear ways.
In the era of management for production, this strategy worked. It was possible to make a change in one place and predict what would happen elsewhere. Change could be controlled using a recipe.
Today’s world is fast-paced and in constant flux. Even the way we think about change is changing. The transformational, cultural changes we are trying to create are complex, with many moving parts. Multiple stakeholders are involved. They need to buy into the reasons behind change and become excited about it.
To encourage evolving and innovative change, relationship is key. It is powerful relationships that create meaningful change.
Change leadership involves envisioning, inspiring, influencing, engaging and emerging change – techniques that help develop collaborative, responsive teams. Rather than simply managing change, organizations are beginning to lead change as well.
Think of it like raising a family. Each child is unique, and there is no perfect process. Just because you have brought up one in a certain way doesn’t mean the same strategies will work for another.
Collaboration is an essential part of creating a team that is able to pivot, innovate and evolve.
Effective change leadership can be contagious. Once a few core people are truly inspired, they convey that energy to the rest of the team. You don’t have to do it all yourself.
Some might say that there is no need to distinguish between change management and change leadership. However, many who train and consult in the field of change management have already realized the value of evolving the role of change leader.
To lead change in a Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous (VUCA) world, we must let go of control and embrace evolution. As agents of change, bringing more awareness to how we see and speak about change allows us to become more intentional and skilled in working with it.
Kerry Woodcock, Ph.D., coaches pioneers and influencers to amplify the power of relationship and lead over the edge of change. As Principal of Novalda, she develops change leadership capability in organizations and social systems.