the Change Leaders Oxf17 -  'The Sustainable Organisation' summary

We are pleased to share the conference summary below. For those who attended Oxford conference, hopefully this will provide a great summary. For those who didn’t, some interesting thoughts for you to consider about 'The Sustainable Organisation'.

Warm regards,


Friday September 22nd started with key note speaker Ian Billick, the Executive Director of the Rocky Mountain Biological Lab ( Both Ian and RMBL are involved in critical scientific research related to climate change.

RMBL is an independent lab/ field station that was founded in 1928. It provides access, logistical support and community building (support, training) to scientists. The lab enables genome research and biological research and has a high level of scientific publications. The challenges they have:

  • Infrastructure costs are rising, while the science budget is flat.
  • Lack of virtuous cycles: there are no financial incentives for the research, e.g. it doesn’t result in intellectual properties that can be capitalised.
  • Provincialism of place: the (unjust) perception that field research is only locally applicable.
  • Identity politics: environmental interest nowadays identifies whether you’re conservative or progressive in politics.

Friday afternoon presented a kaleidoscope of tCL speakers.

  • Rowan Gillies made us aware of the ongoing loss of species, with the extinction of numerous birds and their beautiful sounds.
  • Kit Lykketoft shared with us the sustainability aspects of tourism in Copenhagen. The city is using a benchmark tool to compare with other cities, it stimulates accommodation to go for the green key certification and it aims at including the Sustainable Development Goals in their policies.
  • Shekhar Pula presented the Stop the Ecocide Foundation. He works together with international lawyers to include environmental crimes at the International Criminal Court (ICC). To reach that goal they work on public awareness building, political leadership and legal advancement (so lawyers learn how to deal with ecocide law). In addition, they work on including more island states in the ICC (impacted by the rise of sea level), so that they will have a larger voice at the table.

Next was a presentation by tCL’er Jacob Mayne of a unique new study that presents the voices of 130 senior and middle managers working for leading corporations in 25 countries, half in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) roles, half not. Jacob shared hopeful stories with us about companies that really make an effort to be more sustainable. Main conclusions (self-reported by managers, compared to 5 years ago):

  1. Business case finally recognised;
  2. Sustainability becoming part of management;
  3. Business outcomes seen as more important than PR and compliance;
  4. Middle managers take the lead;
  5. Barriers are short-term focus and top management ignorance.

There is more interest in the change aspects of CSR.

The day ended with drinks, to thank Rick Torseth for his commitment to the tCL Board.

Saturday September 23rd started with a talk by tCL’er Lars Thuesen, who has been working with the UN Women Program in Moldova. He presented together with Ulziisuren Jamsran, the UN responsible for the project that focussed on violence against women. This project evolved from first working for women and gender equality, to then working with women, and then facilitating champions as the key change agents. The project focuses on building adaptive leadership, using positive deviance approaches, and implementing innovative collaborative spaces in the UN office, which was a huge change in the UN’s way of working.  The project not only works with PD champions amongst violated women, but also amongst the police and other stakeholders. Now they’ve even started working with one of the spouses of the women. With the help of the PD champions government has changed the law and also the women’s rights law has been adapted into an easy-to-read version for women. Challenges for the future are to scale up and disseminate the project; and to empower the women in the program to educate themselves, find work, housing, and childcare, etc.

Next was a session with tCL’ers Martin Thomas on the Multicapital Scorecard, based on a book that he co-authored. Martin presented Larry Hirschhorn’s Psychodynamic Framework, which takes into account the facilitating process for change by the legitimate authority, the inhibiting process for change due to inadequate authority resulting in anxiety, and the developmental process for change to create new rules. To come up with Context Based Sustainability Norms, an organisation has to define, together with stakeholders, what represents sustainable performance in their context. Next step is to show how the organisation performed, and then to define and agree the action plan. The biggest challenge in this process is to get the economics people to talk to the sustainability people.

After lunch we all moved to Egrove Park for the CCC 15th anniversary celebration event. Marc Thompson welcomed us and invited us to split up in working groups to define the core elements in teaching, training and consulting on sustainable change for leaders. Facilitated by tCL’ers Dorthe Sorensen, Lisa Francis-Jennings, and Judith Campbell, we split up to work in teams that share a common idea of how such a program would look like. Late in the afternoon the teams presented their ideas in a market place.

Saturday ended with keynote speaker Gareth Morgan. He presented three key sets of ideas for understanding the challenges of sustainability: Complexity Science, “Field” theory, and Critical Realism. He then proposed a “min specs” approach, defining the minimum simple rules. His claim: significant change likely has to be driven locally, from the bottom up, because major institutions tend to be locked in fields of relations that are entrenched and tend to block major change unless there are major shared crises.

After this inspiring talk, we enjoyed drinks and dinner to celebrate CCC’s anniversary.

On Sunday tCL’s Haje Schutte introduced us into the world of public private partnerships for enabling a more sustainable society, based on the OECD publication “Investing in Climate, Investing in Growth”. Partnerships are at the core of sustainable development goals implementation, for example through blended finance, combining public money (to reduce risks for private sector) with private investments – no grants, but investments with a return on capital. These public private partnerships require a different way of working that bridges different cultures and interests, needs capable cross-sector leadership, is able to deconstruct complex problems, articulates a long-term vision, builds trust, leverages differences, and empowers people.

For these changes to happen, change leaders will be in high demand.




tCL Oxford 2016 post-conference summary

Theme : At our Oxford 2016 conference in September, we examined the relationships between Influence, Power and Change, and their overall role in change processes. As power is a critical resource for every actor, be it in organisations or in society as a whole, the conference aspired to help us understand how some individuals acquire power while others do not; why some individuals retain their power once they have attained it; and why others fall from their lofty positions in spite of the political advantages power provides. Given the role of power in organisational and societal processes, it is important to understand how the dynamic of power changes and how power can inhibit or enable change.

In addition, the detailed knowledge was subsequently ‘unfolded’ into more detailed discussions using the unconference approach. This engagement framework enabled participants to put more contextual sense and meaning around the topics using a consensus-based approach, and generated a further set of learning outcomes.

Going forward, a SPREAD paper will be produced, articulating the key discussion points and learning outcomes from the conference.

We started by sharing our first thoughts on power: the taboo, the negative connotation versus power as a positive source, the different types of power, the origins of power, and the unavoidable presence of power. The questions that we had going into the conference mainly focused on how to better understand power and how to apply power within organisations.

Our first speaker Phil Wall is a CCC graduate and the founder of WeSeeHope, a charity enabling children isolated by poverty to create a better future. He introduced the notions of the power of purpose, the power of courage, the power of vulnerability and the power of responsibility. Phil helped us see how the powerless and underprivileged can be viewed through a new lens such that they can be empowered and inspired to create better futures.

Leading the second session, Martin Hermann a Physician by training, focuses on implementing complex change in global health and development. He contrasted the knowing, certain, control and individual with the not knowing, the uncertain, the not in control, and the group. Martin’s activity-based sessions helped us to re-evaluate the time-bound myth that power is the possession of the privileged few, and to analyse what is really is a pervasive and multi-dimensional property of wider human interconnectedness and relationships.

Our final presenter, Stewart Clegg is an Australian professor in the field of Organizational Studies and the author of many books, including the Sage handbook of power. Leveraging a seventies’ TV political satire and Luke’s power structures, he created a frame of reference of different aspects, bases, and concepts of power. This frame highlighted the endless political ecosystem struggle that leverages influence, rhetoric, and resources in pursuit of political agendas. Stewart’s insights helped to surface and illustrate the many components and states of ‘power’ as they exist and influence the real world.

Dorthe Sorensen prepared and orchestrated the unconference process, and facilitated further unfolding of the topic such that attendees could create more contextual sense and meaning. This created a further set of learning outcomes and activity-based engagement, which Dorthe captured.

In summary, many interesting questions and new ways of looking at power in organisations and wider society emerged during the course of the conference. These comprehensive perspectives demonstrated how tCL has evolved as a platform for reflection enabling meaningful conversations within a diverse group. There will be many outcomes resulting from this impactful conference starting with the SPREAD paper later in 2016.




The Change Leaders Par17 conference paper

This paper details the key points from the Paris 2017 conference on 'leading change in a disruptive, sharing economy'. The conference uncovered a diverse range of insights from global multi-national corporations through to local cooperatives. Perspectives on dis-intermediation, co-creation, and cooperation emerged. These created a new world-view of built-for-purpose business vehicles and innovative process frameworks that are not universal banking or generic business process models.

The SPREAD paper from our Par17 conference on 'Leading change in a disruptive sharing economy' is now available.

To download the paper please click here

The Change Leaders Oxf16 conference SPREAD paper

Influence, power, and change

This paper details the key points from the Oxford 2016 conference on “Influence, Power, and Change” and charts how the subject matter was subsequently ‘unfolded’ into more detailed discussions using the unconference framework. This engagement framework enabled participants to put more contextual sense and meaning around the topics using a community approach, and generated a further set of learning outcomes.       

To download the SPREAD paper please click here

The 4E's and Change - Part 1

This article was authored by Mick Yates after a workshop as part of CCC1, with input from many participants

There is a real difference between Managers and Leaders (Peter Drucker, 1954; John Kotter, 1996). Leaders need to be great Managers, but Managers are not always great Leaders. Managers are essentially a 20th century concept, as complex, non-military work organizations grew. Managers run organizations, and Managers have a responsibility to perpetuate their Enterprise. However, whilst Managers can often institutionalize the “status quo”, Leaders are focused on change.

Managing was once defined as:

“Knowing exactly what you want men to do, and then seeing that they do it in the best and cheapest way”. (Frederick Taylor, 1903)

Kotter, in his book on “Leading Change” (1996), uses the lens of change to drive a very clear distinction between Management and Leadership. He says:

“Management is a set of processes that can keep a complicated system of people and technology running smoothly. The most important aspects of management include planning, budgeting, organizing, staffing, controlling, and problem solving.

Leadership is a set of processes that creates organizations in the first place or adapts them to significantly changing circumstances. Leadership defines what the future should look like, aligns people with that vision, and inspires them to make it happen despite the obstacles”.

Change is thus central to Leadership. Without a need for change, the concept of Leadership is meaningless. Leadership is not an abstract concept – it is a practical activity, with a specific goal in mind. And it depends on the environment and situation at the time. For example, the need for change in India pre-independence demanded that someone (Gandhi) arose to lead and organize the cause.

In this sense, Leadership varies by situation as a good Leader in one circumstance may not be successful in another (changed) circumstance. A classic example is Winston Churchill, who succeeded as a wartime Leader and then failed in peacetime by loosing a General Election. He was unable to reflect the change in people’s post-war needs and attitudes. By contrast, Charles De Gaulle was a strong wartime Leader, who seemingly was always able to reflect the changing needs of the populace from wartime to peacetime. He still held consistent views on the future role of France – but by reflecting the popular mood change he succeeded in both situations.

Kotter suggested that there is a sequence in any change activity.

  • establish a sense of urgency
  • create a guiding coalition
  • develop a clear vision
  • share the vision
  • empower people to overcome obstacles
  • secure short term wins
  • consolidate and keep moving
  • anchor the change

In this author’s view, “vision” should be transposed with Kotter’s “sense of urgency” – hurrying to shoot before deciding what to shoot is not a good strategic choice. Change efforts often fail because the real end state of the change is insufficiently thought through. Second, our learning suggests that the detailed execution of a change is usually where it succeeds or fails, and this must be added to Kotter’s list.

Research was also conducted by Keith Grint at Oxford University on the common characteristics of successful change processes (2003/4). Mick Yates and the Change Leaders group worked on the ideas, leading to a suggested Best Practice framework.

Our work shows that the sequence of change activities fits well within the 4E’s Leadership Framework. This framework (discussed in detail in another paper in this series, and referencing Envision – Enable – Empower – Energize) is focused on “actions in use” rather than “espoused” competencies or behaviours.

4E's Framework

The first three Es are the collective “what” and “how”, whilst the last E is the individual “why”, for the Leader and the team.

  • Envision – Values-driven setting of goals and strategies
  • Enable – Identifying tools, technologies, organization structures & people
  • Empower – Creating trust & interdependence between Leader & Follower
  • Energize – The personal Leadership motor to drive the entire system

We suggest an eleven point Change Framework.


  1. an accepted need for change
  2. a viable vision of an alternative state


  1. change agents in place – with a guiding coalition
  2. sponsorship from above
  3. realistic scale & pace of change – with sense of urgency
  4. an integrated transition programme


  1. organization shape to show how tasks and people fit
  2. a symbolic end to the status quo
  3. a plan for likely resistance


  1. constant advocacy – maintain momentum of change
  2. a locally owned benefits plan

To explain each point in more detail, please see Part 2

For more details on the 4E’s Leadership Framework, which was Mick’s MSc work on CCC, link here

Is Enterprise 2.0 the neuro-organisation?

This article belongs to Cécile Demailly’s blog here; a version in French is available here: Entreprise 2.0 et cerveau, quels parallèles ? .

Using metaphors enriches understanding and provides insights that are not only theoretical, but also incredibly practical. Gareth Morgan, in his book “Images of Organization”, mentions the Brain as one of them, among many others. It didn’t strike me as an interesting analogy until recently, when one of my neuro-psy teachers drew neurons connections on a chart. Dependant on the brain territory, you either get neuron highways, i.e. structured and persistent connections, or a fully meshed design where connections can be established on demand, in virtually an infinite number of ways.

The prefrontal cortex (PFC) connections schema caught my eyes: isn’t it similar to what one can draw when picturing the most recent form of an organization, whether you call that Enterprise 2.0, the Collaborative Organization or the Connected Corporation?

Are our brains more evolved than our enterprises?

According to the Triune Brain theory revisited[i], the very first brain development was the Reptilian territory, dedicated to survival: act when everything is calm, escape, fight or play dead when there is a death threat. Second layer was the paleo-limbic, when mammals started to live in herds: it manages relationships in the group. The third brain territory that developed was the neo-limbic cortex, where our character and temperament sit, and where among other things our values are formed and referred to – this territory is present today in a limited number of mammals brains. The PFC is the last evolution stage of the brain and only exists in human brains, and a few apes: it helps us face complexity and new situations. It also manages pure creativity, when one is able to think beyond what-he-thinks-he-knows – see double loop learning from Chris Argyris, for example. That is how it creates new routes of neurons on demand, and how many more connections are kept alive than in other territories.

A small joke among neuro-psy practitioners is that politics are at the paleo-limbic stage, our education system is at the neo-limbic one, and the enterprise is trying to overhaul that same neo-limbic stage. A vision of hope.

Are we making the most of our brains? Forget the old rumor saying we only use 10% of it – this was in the 80’s when we didn’t know what the 90 other per cent was doing. They work at 100% . However, the whole brain does not hold the reins all the time. Where the neo-limbic territory governs automatic responses and actions based on a data bank of known situations (or supposedly known) related to given behaviors, the PFC benefits from a virtually infinite database of very diverse tokens and recollections in which it can search, evaluate and compare. The thing is, most of the time the neo-limbic governs, while the PFC is backstage – even sometimes when it should conduct. It is just like if the PFC has yet to accomplish its full development.

Parallels with todays corporation? The neo-limbic looks like the corporate culture and the processes, whether they are explicit or implicit. The PFC looks like the collaborative and collective potential – when there’s a whole world of talents and knowledge to mine and the power of connections to leverage. The former runs our organizations, the latter may have hints for innovating and solving pervasive issues – though not fully sure how to use it, not sure where it will lead.

Decision-making constituents, action impetus Brain Enterprise
Who usually drives? Limbic territories: Relationship in the group, character/ temperament/ values, automatisms Corporate culture, processes, hierarchy, policies, norms & rules, etc.
Who can help adapt, progress, change? PFC: complex and new situations are its field, with fully meshed neurons networks and a versatile memory, able to process on-demand – no automatisms there, it is mainly adaptation, creativity and innovation (that are lost in case of lobotomy) Could it be the power of connected people, collaboration and collective intelligence?

Adapt or die – where the power of networking could fuel agility

One easily sees benefits of being able to put the PFC to work: adapt to any situation without chains or barriers, benefit from our total intelligence in any circumstance. Human beings who can do this are very few – as mentioned above, our brains have not yet reached this development level. One can train and improve though, this is some of what we learn to facilitate in neuro-psychology.

One paradox of using the PFC is that one has to let go the effectiveness and efficiency duty in order to become more effective and efficient. A clue is that serene people are in much better shape to address edgy situations. Easy to write, hard to grasp, harder to do!

Back to our comparison, a conjecture would be that the enterprise has to get ready to welcome what may come from collaboration initiatives, and get the most of it. That is, without planning ahead what the result should be, or how it should work. Just wait and see. And, it has to feed it with real and serious problems.

In both cases, brain and corporation, it does not mean the other layer (the neo-limbic / the corporate culture and processes) is off work; it just implies that both layers need to work together and rely on each other.

How can the enterprise get there? Probably one very important ingredient is a culture of change. Because whatever situation you address, there will always be a new and more complex one coming. The power of connected people needs to be tapped, but not tamed: new forms of collaboration, new forms of collective intelligence have to be fed with new issues.

The corporation does not age, but it can eventually die. It may become rigid, make errors in terms of adaptation, and then collapse – most corporations expire before they reach 40 years old[ii]. And in these times where everything accelerates, it is more than urgent to cultivate adaptability, even if it means welcoming uncertainty as a resource.

[i] Among other, by the Institut de NeuroCognitivisme in its neurocognitive and behavioral approach
[ii] a Royal Dutch/Shell survey of 1983, the Fifth Discipline, Peter M. Senge

Oxford Conference 2013 - Is Change Agency a Profession? A Historical Perspective.

At our autumn conference held in Oxford in September, we were fortunate to be joined by Chris McKenna, University Reader in Business Strategy and History, a Fellow of Brasenose College, Oxford, and the Director of the Novak Druce Centre for Professional Service Firms at Saïd Business School. He studies the historical development and strategy of professional firms, and their role in shaping global business. This session examined how managers, leaders and entrepreneurs adapted to the context of their times and to what extent they were equal in stature with the classical professions.                        

What constitutes a profession?

According to Chris, understanding context and the history of our times enables us to control our own destiny and ensures that we don’t become a cog in the system; mastering context helps us to plan our personal career trajectory.  For example, ESCP was the world’s first business school, established in 1819. However it would be the later Harvard Business School, established in 1908 that would go on to define business education. Harvard had a goal – the professionalization of business management. Since there was almost 100 years difference in age between the schools, their relative historical contexts were very different, as was their geographical and cultural backgrounds. Interestingly, ESCP still brands itself today as ‘the world’s first business school (being)’. Harvard, on the other hand, talks about its 100 year role in shaping business around the world (doing). In other words, it demonstrates true leadership qualities.

There was some discussion amongst the audience around what constitutes a profession (apart from the classic ones such as medicine and law). To what degree do consulting and management constitute ‘real’ professions? What differentiates a profession from a trade – for example is hairdressing a profession or a trade? Chris uses a set of sociological characteristics to determine whether a given activity is a ‘true’ profession or not.  Law, for example, has a very clear mission, requisite education, specialized journals, self-governance mechanism (disbarment), state certification and a common body of knowledge. It is also highly structured and regulated, and is a good benchmark against which to evaluate other functions.

Management through the ages.

Chris also highlighted the impact that contextual factors had on different periods. These include government intervention, global affairs, demography, social values, technology and labor-related developments. In the 1920’s, some critical contextual factors included anti-trust investigations, population migration to cities and the liberalization of labor laws. Having emigrated from France to America to escape the French Revolution, the DuPont family created a monopoly in the production of gunpowder. Due to the focus on anti-trust at that time, they made a strategic decision to diversify into a conglomeration of associated industries. The 1920’s witnessed the development of a number of these large conglomerates along with a variety of well-known brands.

Entrepreneur Joan Trippe founded PanAm. Manager Robert Woodruff drove the international growth of Coca-Cola. Leader Gerard Swope expanded General Electric’s utility business into a broader consumer market. Conglomerates continued well into the 1960’s and 70’s, with entrepreneur Sam Walton revolutionizing logistics at Wal-Mart. Once a rage, however, by the 1980’s conglomerates had become a relic – ‘inefficient and byzantine’ (New York Times).  Except in developing nations like India – demonstrating how contextual factors vary not only over time, but are also affected by local institutional dimensions.

Chicken or egg? Horse or cart?

It’s clear that contextual factors influence how organizations develop; but does it explain the success of those leaders, entrepreneurs and managers? What lessons can be drawn from this? Take Nucor’s leader, Kenneth Iverson who bucked the trend of shrinking American and European steel manufacturers in the 1960’s. He pioneered the use of small, electric recycling plants, improved quality at the lower end and went on to dominate the industry. Another example:  the development of the European textile industry is very much part of the ‘Industrial Revolution’; but the British eventually lost out to the cheaper developing countries. On the other hand, the Americans invested in vertical integration, which saved them from the plight of the  British. What actually triggered that?

Organizational sea-changes over time.

Many of the technological innovations which we have seen since the 1960’s have been created outside of mainstream organizational life, often in garages. Companies developed large well-funded research and development departments to try to harness expertise and knowledge, hoping to create competitive advantage. This almost mirrors the bringing of labor into factories in the early 19th century, leading to mass production, assembly lines and automation. But organizations can no longer be successful by building new, albeit innovative, products (like the Model T Ford which lasted 20 years). Although technological innovations continue apace, social and lifestyle applications of technology are becoming more and more important. Increasing longevity and changing age demographics are set to impact the economy in the coming decades. Globalization is affecting how we think, learn, work and play. The speed of electronic communication, social networks, mobile ‘phone technology all contribute to how we interact, and socialize. They also provide increasing ways to analyze where we are, what we are doing and saying.  The bottom line is that we can learn a lot by looking at the past – back to the future?

A question of relevance.

So, what does all this mean to us as change consultants, managers and leaders? Since Chris differentiated between consultants (quasi-profession) and managers (not sure), does it mean that our professional status is determined by how we bring our knowledge to market? If we are external consultants, we are professionals; but if we are change managers within an organization, we are not? That doesn’t seem to make sense. In fact the weakness that I see in this argument is mixing functions with knowledge. The strength of law as a profession is not whether you are a solicitor or a barrister; it is the common body of knowledge encompassed in laws and procedures.

This does have implications for us as consultants in change, and the question of whether change consultancy is a profession remains largely unanswered. I think this is an interesting discussion point, especially considering the approach demonstrated by Chris. Personally, I wonder whether an answer is necessary. As change specialists (to use a more innocuous term), I think it’s important that we keep ourselves continuously open, adapting as we should to the changing context which accompanies us throughout our lives. Each new innovation, development, generation should impact how we think and how we approach our work. This approach of course does not align with the focus of organizations like the Change Management Institute and the Association of Change Management Professionals, who are working to create strict standards for change management. I consider this to be critical; but it shouldn’t suffocate thought leadership, which has to be driven by reality, not rules. For me, that’s the difference between management and law.

Julie Mowinski

Paris Conference 2014 - The Posture of the Open-Minded Executive

On Friday afternoon at the Paris conference, we sat captivated while David Jestaz, Director of the Corporate University of Management,  told his story of change in a business unit of EDF (EDRF).  David had created an award-winning training programme to support a major culture change – the business needed to compete in a market where they had previously held a monopoly.  This needed a different approach from people at all levels.  His  story added detail to the award report and supplemented the already interesting case with layers and texture that allowed us to build an even deeper understanding of his Change Program challenges and successes.

At the completion of his story, after questions had been asked, and answered, we were divided into groups and given time to compile some feedback about David’s approach and process.  David sat on a chair in the middle of the room, listening attentively, responding to comments and jotting notes as each group presented their observations.

We appreciated  David’s open mind and curiosity. Even though the program was over – and had been more successful than imagined – he was interested in mining the group for more ideas and perceptions and to test where he could have improved his process. He was already thinking about, and planning for, the next big change program.

This feedback (or post-surgery) session was as rich for the participants as it was for David. As well as anchoring some fundamental concepts and beliefs about how we frame Change so that the client/sponsor understands its urgency, it led to some interesting discussions about recognizing the different levels of Change (for example: “Wicked”  vs Simple). In a matter of a few hours, we peeled back various layers and considered ways to program change resilience into a workforce that was being rocked by the evolving landscape of its industry.

The group specifically picked out the following strengths in David’s approach:

  • How he created ownership with sponsors a step at a time
  • The design of the programme round a concrete “transitional object” – helping people to understand the difference between a business and a public service by thinking as business owners
  • How he orchestrated several specialist suppliers to deliver a seamless programme

The case provided a platform for further discussion that evening and throughout the weekend. What other ways were there to approach “chaotic” and / or “complex change”; how to recognize emergent issues and engage the organization productively to move forward; when was enough change, enough?

David’s note of thanks was validation that the session had been a valuable interchange of ideas and concepts for him, with a link back to the relevant theoretical backgrounds, as well as sharing of practical ideas. The participants left the weekend with rich ideas and were more in tune with current issues faced by industries going through wide- and large-scale change. David’s story was an intense reminder of the challenges that change agents face, occasionally alone, when they know the difficult path – sometimes the unknown path – is the only path to take.

David told us after the conference: “I never got such a smart and friendly feed back from a group. I learned a lot and took good note of what I got”. We, in turn, appreciated the opportunity to analyse the case, and more importantly, the privilege of working with such an  open-minded Executive.

Post by Lisa Francis-Jennings, with support of Jane Lewis, Roberto Saco and Cécile Demailly. Photos by Cécile Demailly.

The 4E's and Change - Part 2

1. An accepted need for change

There must be a “need” creation process – the Leader usually understands the reason and the need for the change first, but not always. Sometimes the need is there, well identified, yet no one knows how to deal with it. It is at this point that the Leader steps in. Importantly he or she must then help create the acceptance of the need for change amongst all members of the organization. And a principal early activity of the Leaders is to help start a trust building process around this need for change.

To do this, Leaders must embody the values of the Enterprise if the change is to be “authentic”.

2. A viable vision of an alternative state

Without a viable and vivid picture of where the organization is going, there can be no change. The Leader’s role is to help convince the key people in the organization of the viability of the new vision with a clear “end state” picture. This which will be:

  • practical – based on real technology, effective organization, available finance etc.
  • worth doing – for the key people in the organization
  • able to grow / develop – everyone can contribute to the change over time
  • able to survive the environmental context outside of the creator’s mind
  • consistent with the Enterprise’s values

A helpful tool is an OGSTM, which formally separates the objectives, goals, strategies, tactics, and measures. If used properly, it is a “living” document which gets everyone concerned “onto the same page” and “connects the dots” between strategy and action planning.

3. Change agents in place – with a guiding coalition

This is one of Kotter’s more telling points. There must be deliberate activity in place to simultaneously build a coalition of willing stakeholders and also create a network of trusted sponsors. It could be either an emergent coalition (that “pops up” when the need for change arises) or it could be a deliberately “designed” coalition. The Leader and the sponsors must have a good knowledge of their people and their roles. And they must ensure both top down and bottom up communication so that course corrections can be made.

The group of change agents must then own the change, and not just the initiator.

4. Sponsorship from above

This is, of course, necessary ….

5. Realistic scale and pace of change – but with a clear sense of urgency

A change Leader must understand the environmental context and as many hard facts as possible to help build realistic goals (and avoid unrealistic ones). Yet how the Leaders of any change process gauge realism is a rather “artistic” activity, requiring skill, good judgement, people sense and intuition. It can help to get some early wins on the way to the big goal, to maintain tempo, and to keep people on board.

Using “rolling forecasts” rather than goals set in concrete can help this. And sorting priorities by clear time sequencing of activities can help create realistic expectations and concrete action plans.

6. An integrated transition program

It is essential to nurture existing “business activities” whilst also building capacity for the new end state. Suggestions to help this include:

  • create interdependence between both states to help each other
  • balance the expectations for forecastable results with breakthrough activities
  • pace the transition from one state to the other
  • include all parts of the organization in building change capacity
  • set up feedback loops to course correct and adapt as things move forward
  • continually consider the psychological transition for people as the change occurs

7. Organization shape to show how tasks and people fit

It is often helpful to provide a “straw man” example of what the organization must look like to get the tasks completed to deliver the vision. The start point is to define the skills needed – and the consequent gaps in capability. It is important to not start planning with the current positions and employee names in the boxes – the key is to build from the future purpose of the Enterprise not from its history.

The Leader will then need to enrol the guiding coalition in the detailed organization design.

Eventually, the sponsors can define the specific roles and responsibilities within the new organization. But if you can’t make all the roles and reporting lines clear, say so. It is critical to provide clarity even if you can’t provide certainty

8. A symbolic end to the status quo

Having a clear and visible end to the “old” whilst also dealing with the mourning for this prior state can be very powerful. We need to be creative about such rituals, and try to build a symbolic (and possibly dramatic) start to the “new” state

9. A plan for likely resistance

Leaders of change must anticipate “pockets of resistance” and develop a specific plan for overcoming their objections. They need to deal with both the organizational and technological aspects as well as the human issues. If appropriate, change Leaders must consider “surgical removal” of obstacles.

10. Constant advocacy – maintain momentum of the change

This requires the full energy of the Leader and the Leadership team. In an effort to create meaning for everyone in the organization, an intensive process of both top down and bottom up flow of communication is necessary. The change Leader needs to bring the program alive for every individual in the organization – and then consistently and constantly communicate the right message –“tell them, tell them, and tell them again”.

11. A locally owned benefits plan

The benefits of the change must be expressed and measured in a concrete and tangible way for both individual employees and for the organization as a whole. This also implies that there is shared accountability within the organization for the results achieved, with the benefits linked to an effective and on-going performance management system.

Of course, a specific change program will tend to focus on a few of these points as being the most critical, but research suggests that all should be born in mind in planning the change.

“Leadership is the energetic process of getting other people fully and willingly committed to a new and sustainable course of action, to meet commonly agreed objectives whilst having commonly held values”

For more details on the 4E’s Leadership Framework, which was Mick’s MSc work on CCC, link here

Related resources, further study and references can be found at