Social Organizations Get There by Changing

One of the comments we’ve been getting from people about our Humanize book is about the large amount of content in it. The type in the print version is pretty small. We really do have a lot in there talking about what it means, as an organization, to become more open, trustworthy, generative, and courageous.

And on top of all that content, in the very last chapter, we make an important point: you’re not going to become a more human organization, unless you change. I suppose it sounds obvious. But we sure do struggle with change. We treat it almost as a hardship. For a while we tend to avoid it. We just keep doing our work, plodding forward, assuming that the organizations we have will perpetually be the right ones to support us in our work. Over time we realize that in fact the way we do things around here is NOT really working for us, and we realize we have to change.

Then we sound the alarm. We often freak out a bit and gnash our teeth about the difficulty of making a change. We get mad at other people in the organization who are obstacles to the change, who just don’t “get it.” We buy books on change management and fret over whose cheese has been moved. It’s all very traumatic. A lot of drama.

So maybe this is personal to me (I have three teenage daughters), but I think we need less drama. So let’s start by eliminating the drama around change.
country road
Start with acceptance. Change is good. Change is natural. There is no life without change. Just take a deep breath and remember that change, while it is not always easy and can definitely be a lot of work, is a normal part of life and something that in the end you want. Remember, we have a word for systems that don’t change: stagnant.

Once you’re calm about the fact that change is a normal part of your organizational life, then take some time to get serious about the change. Here’s where you read some books, gather data about your system, talk to people about what’s going on. Turn off your email and phone and think about it for a while. A key piece about change is that you will need to shift the way you think and see things. So work on that. Give yourself time. And notice that this work is a LOT easier when you start from a place of calm acceptance. The anxiety is less (which helps with reducing the drama).

Then start collaborating with others on change. I know, much easier said than done, and the details of your situation will require a unique approach to change. I can’t give you a template in one blog post. Sorry. But figure out where you can start changing things with others, and get started. That is one reason why Maddie and I wrote up four different downloadable worksheets to accompany Humanize–to help you get cracking. You may hit road blocks as you work on change, and that might require another period of thinking or talking with others before you can get back to action, but that’s one way to remove the drama and the trauma of change. Make it normal and ordinary and frequent.

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Philippa November 25, 2011 at 11:40 AM

This is so true, and so many organisations are scared of even the smallest change. A good leader can make all the difference, in this case.

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