On Oct 2, CCL officially opened our brand new Brussels, Belgium campus with ‘A Day for Change’. We are indeed a long way from the world in William Whyte’s book ‘The Organization Man’, in which he describes the golden age of corporations and corporate training. Decades ago we lived in a stable and more or less foreseeable economic environment where people had life long careers in the same company. Leaders were going through a predictable path in the hierarchy and were supported by week long residential trainings. How the times have changed indeed. The VUCA (volatile-uncertain-complex-ambiguous) environment of today’s leaders is more accurately described in books as “Future Work” and “Leaders Make the Future.”
I wanted to share a few observations that came out of our Day for Change.
The first thing that struck me while talking to participants in our workshops was that even our concept of change has changed! Our mental model for ‘change’ has long been a sudden and dramatic disruption that needed a whole change and transformation management approach between two stable phases (the unfreeze-change-freeze model). But change isn’t sudden and seldom: it is fluid and always. It is ever on-going and just never stops. Change isn’t an event anymore; it’s a continuous process of smaller and bigger adaptations.
Many people rightfully pointed out how hard change is. Many change initiatives fail at an organizational level (and btw, a lot do so because they neglect “the people side” of change projects). But equally, many leaders individually struggle to change their ways to more effective leadership behaviors. Change is hard. We know from neuroscience that ambiguity and change can trigger stress and resistance. We also know from neuroscience that learning new habits takes time and repeated attention and practice.
Here’s what my colleague Nick Petrie has found out about leaders who successfully change their behaviors versus those who don’t: they use a deliberate and personal process to do so, and they involve other people. I think that applies to organizations too. So the worst way to go about changing is to leave it to chance and go it alone. A better way is to find out how your organization most successfully changes, create an intentional process around that, and involve others from your stakeholder network.
How do you make changes personally? How do you lead change in your organization?