Success has no Plan B. It requires a strong clear vision. And, if you can’t put that vision to paper, it’s not going happen. But, for all the videos and Instagram moments around us, we are not very good at seeing what needs to be seen in organizational change management.
To manage the change — from inside and outside, you must understand the nature of change, discover the most fitting business model for change, and build in a fluid, flexible change management strategy.
Organizations are natural and organic.
Stakeholders create and develop organizations. As I said in The Change Champion’s’ Field Guide (2013), organizations exist “because they are held within the minds of interconnected and interdependent people. [As such] They are an elaborate demonstration of the potential for human imagination.” Survival depends on their ability to grow, and growth means change.
Organizational change is not transformational if it is mainly transactional, so you must learn to draw new models to capture rapidly evolving value propositions. The pulls of Artificial Intelligence, transhumanism, robotics, and more demand more fluid, dynamic, and integrated pictures. Legacy approaches to next-generation innovation and expectations just cannot do the job anymore.
Change can mean running in place —
There is a physics to business change. All organizations have a degree of potential energy that may or may not become kinetic. All things being equal (as they never are), the energy will express itself according to certain laws of force, velocity, and inertia. Each and all are functions of weight. density, and gravity.
Theorists work most comfortably when these assumptions are firm: “If A, B, and C are true under conditions D, E, and F, then ….” Having set up such parameters, they proceed to drape a skin upon the bones.
The Aristotelian logic appeals to accountants, actuaries, and auditors. With business so attached to its financing and P&L, this binary approach plays a continuing prominent role in management thinking. But it also constrains the ability to envision business futures and manage change.
Traditional logic does provide a common vocabulary and process to set up standards of operation, best practices, and reporting metrics. As a discipline and universal standard, the logic is healthy. As a record of past-to-recent transactions, it is handy. But it remains descriptive, not prescriptive. The data may indicate trends, but if the trends were sacred, you could bet Wall Street on them. Classic logic cannot see around corners where lies much shaping, informing, and threatening change.
Straightening change out —
The strong trust in the logic-defining “old math” spurs makers and shakers to roll things out with most business strategies illustrated as horizontal lines. Resources pass-through procurement and processing to delivery. An occasional line inclines up and to the right; the arrows always point right. And, sometimes they are segmented by downs markers or graph grids.
You learn this from board games. Checkers move forward — or not. The Game of Life takes you through pre-ordained rites of passage to victory if you play “fair.” Monopoly introduces some strategy for those smart enough to die rich. And, success in Sorry depends on the odds and your willingness to betray your friends and family.
Figure 1 forms a typical legacy business model where everything drives right on some bias that right is positive.
Figure 1: Typical Legacy Business Model
The horizontal mindset is governing, traceable, and lends itself to SmartArt, Excel, Gantt Charts, calendars, and flowcharting software. You can suggest some parallel movement of functions by adding cells below these titles to integrate their roles. They can be fitted with resources, inventory, prices, counts, receivables, and other numbers. The resulting vertical silos and matrices are, then, useful — given what they are.
However, each increment assumes it carries the preceding forward. In his paper on “Mission, Vision, Strategy: Discernment in Catholic Business Schools” (2012), Wolfgang Grassl wrote, “Planning is by its nature directed at a goal or purpose. In a sequential process, every stage captures a fraction of what the previous stage required. Ultimate success is then a multiplicative function of successive stages.”
This multiplicative assumption that things follow-through is woefully naïve considering the accelerating dynamic of contemporary innovation. It has no room for the outcome of our research, reported in Best Practices in Leadership Development and Organizational Change (2015), that found “A majority of our world’s best organizations describe leadership development and organization changes as ‘the real work of the organization’.”
Contemporary business management change —
Twelve-column spreadsheets cannot capture the fluid dynamic of innovation. Legacy business models treat progress as accumulation and aggregation. They prioritize quantification; even quality control is a tick on a checklist.
Despite the angular layout of the Business Model Canvas created by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur (2004), the components surround the Value Proposition, that unique something that separates your product or service from the competition. It has proven a flexible launch vehicle creating business models for innovative futures.
Traditional business models have sought to produce outputs efficiently and economically. Economic exchange at any level is about creating value for money. Writing for The European Journal of Management (2008), Stephen L. Vargo and colleagues noted, “that value is fundamentally derived and determined in use – the integration and application of resources in a specific context – rather than in exchange – embedded in firm output and captured by price.” Value for money increases when the change is fit for purpose, for time, and for purpose.
Vargo went on to observe that values then derive from an understanding that “(1) service, the application of competencies (such as knowledge and skills) by one party for the benefit of another, is the underlying basis of exchange; (2) the proper unit of analysis for service-for-service exchange is the service system, which is a configuration of resources (including people, information, and technology) connected to other systems by value propositions; and (3) service science is the study of service systems and of the co-creation of value within complex configurations of resources.”
To reach such understanding means seeing business change as biochemical, hormonal, and emotional as well as categorical, transactional, and reductive — emotional connectedness being the key. Fortunately, you now see software able to draw flows, tides, and feedback — the strategic change management tools organizations can build dreams upon.
Feeding futures forward —
The concept of the Theory of Change shown here in Figure 3 can be fun. But this change management tool is more than illustrative. The picture is a collaborative process during which stakeholders provide inputs, establish orders, and negotiate differences — and have fun doing it.
Figure 3: Theory of Change visual notes
All rights reserved © Emily Shepherd, 07/29/2013
The visual notes become a loose display of the central values, functions, and processes while acknowledging the assumptions and risks involved. At this, it is an imaginative equivalent of the sticky notes and magic markers used to create Figure 4.
Figure 4: Design Thinking for Advocacy
Image attributed to Christine Prefontaine at Flikr.com
Discern, deliberate, and decide —
Change prompts resistance from people, policies, and processes. Walter Earl Fluker, Executive Director at Morehouse College, feels “To discern, deliberate, and decide effectively, leaders at the intersection must reexamine their core values and assumptions about identity (character); clarify relationships with others in their environment who are involved in and will influence their discernment, deliberation, and decision making (civility); and maintain strong ties with their primary network of discourse and practice (community).”
It is here, for example, we were able to help a major regional healthcare provider better serve its “community of caring.” Brainstorming, discovery, and data drove a discerning decision on forging new relationships with medical providers across the region setting a course to create collaborative arrangements with hospitals so they all could survive in a hyper-competitive healthcare/clinical landscape where small hospitals were getting eaten up.
Change management strategy starts with this discernment, the asking of “What’s going on?” That differs from examining the “why” and “how” — both of which are retro focused. Change must anticipate the rise and risk of intersections where core assumptions and values must center thought and action.
Where change confuses invention and innovation—
The ill-fated launch of Google “Explorer” Glasses provides positive lessons in business modeling and effective change management. Google co-founder Sergey Brin had launched an empowering initiative to spur innovation. In at least one case, it triggered a rush to market.
It produced an inventive technology putting the power of a full computer into the arm of nerdy spectacles. Steven Levy, writing for Wired.com (2017) noted, “The original Glass designers had starry-eyed visions of masses blissfully living their lives in tandem with a wraparound frame and a tiny computer screen hovering over their eye.”
Asking $1,500 a pair, Google marketed what was an unproven prototype. It promised facial recognition, social media access, and unlimited Android applications. With the tech media overexcited about its production and promise, somebody failed to consider tech defects and the universal fear of its invasion of privacy issues. The failure in the process (if not in ethics) proved a major embarrassment for Google — not enough to damage the tech behemoth but embarrassing, nonetheless.
The value proposition of the first launch appears to have offered a unique device to a public at large already committed to buying on Amazon. Google wanted to capture a segment of the IoT market before Apple or others had developed the product. Instead, they pushed a faulted high-dollar item to an audience addicted to new devices. So, Google went back to its drawing board to create, prototype, test, and improve its technology, lower its price, and focus its marketing.
Google’s Glass Enterprise Edition 2 launched in 2019, a $999.99 utility device sold to businesses that manage the device’s proprietary software. Its website features videos of use among farmers, doctors, technicians, and factory workers completing work with the aid of remote advice or documents. The content addresses discernment. In the words of Ian Altman in Forbes (2015), the new approach admits that “Companies often forgot (or don’t know) what questions customers really ask during the decision-making process.”
The Google Enterprise’s new strategy serves major business clients in manufacturing (GE), logistics (DHL), healthcare (Sutter Health), and others to use a more attractive and versatile pair of glasses with a faster-charging longer-lasting battery addressing original objections about performance glitches. And, user businesses have readily accessible transparency to the device’s specs and testing results.
Enterprise addresses a market of specific customized work functions. The Guardian’s John Naughton remarked, “It’s what technology is for: supplementing rather than replacing human intelligence.” In this case, there are at least three useful applications according to Mark Sullivan of FastCompany.com (2019) paraphrased here:
- Coaching: Employees have access to training manuals, standard operating procedures, and dos and don’ts about product assembly, maintenance, and repair.
- Supervision: Supervisors or mentors can observe work and offer direction, advice, and correction.
- Inspection: Worker wearers can record and file work for quality purposes.
By understating the glasses’ capability, limiting the internet reach, and narrowing the camera’s purpose, Google’s Enterprise has effectively eliminated privacy issues. And, unless Apple meets Google head-on, Google will have recovered from its early decision-making failures.
Where to go from here —
An effective and transforming roadmap for change management must respect some facts:
- Binary linear logic may manage process, but it provides no strategy for transformational change.
- While change is certain, nothing about it is certain.
- Uncertainty presents queries — not confusion. It is leadership’s opportunity to discern direction aligned with the organization’s evolving vision and mission.
Innovation proceeds from the future, not the past. It awaits discovery, so organization requires readiness more than satisfaction, an opportunity rather than chance, and confidence before engineering.
Michelangelo believed his statue was living in the marble; all he had to do was chip away “the superfluous material.” Henry James set out to find a “figure in the carpet.” A mind open to fluidity, dynamism, and flexibility will find its roadmap rather than build and impose a framework that only confirms its accumulated experience.
Altman, I. (2015, April 28). Why Google Glass Failed And Why Apple Watch Could Too. Retrieved from Forbes.com: https://www.forbes.com/sites/ianaltman/2015/04/28/why-google-glass-failed-and-why-apple-watch-could-too/#101ec89b44c4
Carter, L. (2005). Best Practices in Leadership Development and Organizational Change. (l. Carter, D. Ullrich, & M. Goldsmith, Eds.) San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons. Inc.
Carter, L. (2013). The Change Champion’s Field Guide (2nd ed.). (L. Carter, R. Sullivan, M. Goldsmith, D. Ulrich, & N. Smallwood, Eds.) San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Fluker, W. (2009, Fall). Leading Ethically at the Intersection Where Worlds Collide. Leader to Leader, 54, 32-38. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. doi:10.1002/ltl.362
Grassl, W. (2012). Mission, Vision, Strategy: Discernment in Catholic Business Schools. Retrieved from Academia.edu: https://www.academia.edu/2731809/MISSION_VISION_STRATEGY_DISCERNMENT_IN_CATHOLIC_BUSINESS_EDUCATION
Levy, S. (2017, July 18). Google 2.0 is a Startling Second Act. Retrieved from Wired.com: https://www.wired.com/story/google-glass-2-is-here/
Naughton, J. (2017, July 23). The rebirth of Google Glass shows the merit of failure. Retrieved from The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jul/23/the-return-of-google-glass-surprising-merit-in-failure-enterprise-edition
Osterwalder, A., & Pigneur, Y. (2010). Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Sullivan, M. (2019, May 20). Google says the new Google Glass gives workers “superpowers”. Retrieved from Fast Company.com: https://www.fastcompany.com/90352249/google-says-the-new-google-glass-gives-workers-superpowers
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