Change is a direction – not a goal

When an organization decides to change it is important to understand, first of all, who is deciding? If the whole organization is supposed to change – then the whole organization should make the decision! That way everybody can cooperate on making it happen.

circle-of-collaborationAnd then everybody involved must understand that the decision is also a commitment. The change is not about reaching a particular goal. Maybe it is possible to pin out some expected benefits and predict when they will be achieved, but most often the change is simply a change of direction and the journey will then reveal its benefits on the way.

So, you change direction – you look ahead, it looks promising, you walk a bit. And then you stop. Why? Because you thought that you were executing a project.

But an organizational change is not a project, even though a project is kind of a change – a way of introducing a certain kind of change through a produced “product, service, or result,” as PMI puts it, this way indicating that the project is forever through its deliveries.

The organizational change is a new direction. A new normal. A new common understanding of what the organization is doing, and how.

When you have set the direction, you must follow it – until you change again. This will never end. Guided by a philosophy of continuous improvement you must repeatedly observe, analyse and learn along the way, and continuously use what you have learned to adjust the direction.

It should be quite obvious, but it is often forgotten: if the change decision is made by just one person, or a small group of people, the rest of the organization might not see this as their new direction. If they do not know, do not understand, or just do not agree, how can they then be expected to follow you?

The idea of the charismatic leader who can and will make his people follow him everywhere without asking, is a myth! Maybe you can find a few examples of such leaders and people, but most modern people are not just following any weird idea (especially not if they are too often introduced for yet another “idea of the month”), instead they are trying to maintain the quality in their work by making use of their achieved skills and experience – in order to help the organization survive through the turbulent times, you have introduced.

They are not making resistance, they are helping! It is a matter of viewpoint: without reaching an initial accommodation across the organization, the change will not happen because there will be different views on what is right and how to do that – there will be different goals and different ideas on which direction to go in order to reach one of them.

But the goal is not something to tell the employees, it is something to agree upon. Because, only when everybody agrees, understands, and knows the same, they can set the new direction and make the change happen.

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4 Responses to Change is a direction – not a goal

  1. Alex Jones says:

    I play chess, the telos (goal) is for me to beat the computer at chess. I have no need to change if I win at chess, the process I follow meets my telos of winning. At level 3 on my PC chess game I win 30 games in a row, I move up to level 4 and suffer losses and an unbelievable draw when I had three queens to the oppositions one queen. My process at level 4 in the chess game could no longer meet the telos of winning the game, I had to evolve through changing my process, thus I began to win more level 4 games.

    I support the philosophy of continuous improvement, for this acts as a cultural dynamic shared by all in the organisation to look for and build on existing processes to meet the telos more efficiently.

    As longs as the telos remains sacred and unchanging the group understands through good communications the necessity of change of processes to meet the telos, since the world is ever changing and those that fail to stay in harmony with the world die.

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