With a lot of interest I’ve read Gary Hamel’s and Michele Zanini’s article on change published on McKinsey.com in October 2015 (http://goo.gl/2UbUaL). As part of their recommendation to establish a change platform instead of a change program they suggest to replace the old paradigms of change
- Change starts at the top
- Change is rolled out
- Change is engineered
with a more state of the art framework:
- From top-down to activist-out
- From managed to organic
Part of this framework is a platform inspired (not copied from, I like that!) by social media technology. They don’t put the technology in the front row. They advise a change of mind on the executive floor. From change agent in chief to change enabler in chief. This new role is supposed to create the right environment and provide the right coaching for the organisation to speak up.
No matter how much I like the idea and no matter how much I would like to see large organisations change organically, the past years have made me re-think my belief that change can be solely driven from within. I’ve been an active part of change – in various roles – and I’ve worked and am still working with (in some cases pretty large) companies that want to drive change. From within.
I would like to share two perspectives that I would like to see as an addition to the article mentioned above:
#1 the biggest hurdle sits in the middle
Companies have managed to design a way of steering themselves that works on multiple levels of abstraction. The higher managers sit in the food chain the more abstract they look onto their share of responsibility. They way they are managed and measured is sometime even more disconnected from reality than the objectives set of the c-suite. They are the ones that always have to deliver the impossible.
Now change is nurtured and coached from above and activists are encourage to apply disruptive and innovative thinking. Everyone is allowed to work out loud and to form alliances for the greater good.
I would like to recommend that someone comes up with the model for “middle management change”. How can we turn them into activists? How do we enable them to not just rely on dashboards, punctual human interaction and brushed up reports? How to we turn them into coaches, guides, enablers, network facilitators and talent spotters?
I believe that without them in the front row change from inside-out will end up in the same spot as from top-down: a cul-de-sac.
#2 the right environment comes with the right set of KPI
Let’s not kid ourselves. We are talking about companies – in a lot of instances we are talking about public ones. As long as the executive floor and their direct lines do not turn organisations in collaboratively driven powerhouses nothing will change. As long as goals can be achieved individually (aka: alone), something’s wrong. Swarm intelligence in a company has to be nurtured and motivated…and evaluated and measured.
“What is the project of your community?”
This was one of my favourite statements at the 2014 Social Business Collaboration Conference in Berlin. It stands for something that has been seen separately over the past years: collective exchange and concrete measures and objectives.
I truly believe that our communities need projects. No matter if we call them change, innovation, research, development or thought leadership communities. They need a project because they happen in companies and they have to deliver their share of the deal.
This might sound all very harsh and black and white but I am intentionally trying to provoke here.
I am an evangelist for the future of information work. I am am fighter for the social media inspired workspace. I am an encourager of cross-functional and cross-border thinking and work. However, I don’t think that we will be able to do all this without the right measures and frameworks in place. Just unleashing the activists in an environment of freedom and thought leadership is not enough.