20 Dec 2020

Is’nt that the current ongoing pandemic situation has caused a disruption to our existing social construction of reality to work, workplace & workforce ?

Not only that but it has also posed us with more adaptive challenges than ever before like “how do we create sustainable business models”, “ How do we build dynamic , distributed & inclusive organizations”.

In Adaptive challenges, the problem statements are more difficult to define and need to be adapted to with basic changes in the assumptions & beliefs and change in numerous places across organizational boundaries.

This causes an inflection point forcing us to relook on our basic assumptions, beliefs that we had been traditionally carrying about our work & life and reorganize our existing systems.

I perceive this as a silver lining poising us to embrace more transformational changes than traditional incremental shifts.

But the journey towards realizing these transformational shifts may be relatively more complex and challenging because the contributing variables are constantly changing and are perceptible only in a retrospective manner.

As I say this , on the other hand , basis a recent survey jointly conducted by PwC & NHRDN, it is inferable that only ~ 1 in 3 respondents consider that their organizations are ready to embrace this change. So the pertinent question here is what will enable the organizations seamlessly navigate this journey ? Here are my views on the change management approach and the leadership Style which shall be more enabling.

While We may be used to various traditional planned change management models like Kurt Lewin’s three step change model , Action Research , Kotter’s change management models & so on , what is common about all these are that they are more driven from the top in an episodic manner following a water fall approach to driving change . Also that they insist on Sense, Analyze & Respond framework which propagates a systematic identification of the problem, diagnosis of all the organizational elements and looking for the best possible solution from the past.

Planned Change Model

But in a dynamic environment like this characterized by multiple unclear & constantly changing variables, a traditional planned approach may not turn out to be as effective in handling the complex adaptive challenges as that of handling typical technical problems.

So what is the alternative?

A continuous generative change management approach which is based on the premise of Experiment – Learn – Amplify shall turn out to be relatively a more effective alternate option to combat these adaptive challenges. A Generative change model proposes of bringing together all relevant stakeholders and harvesting their group wisdom in generating adaptive ideas, experimenting & learning from them and subsequently building on the most promising probes . And all of these are done more in an agile manner rather than a water fall approach of any traditional planned change management models.

Generative Change Model

What makes a generative change model more effective is,

  • It believes on the potential of the larger group or whole system rather than just being dependent on few experts in the system since an organization ability to adapt is also significantly dependent on the collective behavior in the system.
  • It brings about a change to the underlying values , beliefs & mindsets by changing the existing organizational narrative or the storyline in the system.
  • By virtue of focusing on the future possibilities it moves away from getting bogged down in finding a solution to the problem.

And what more?

Don’t you think to tread this path of driving a change in a generative manner, there also needs a complementing change in the style of the leadership at the helm from a traditional one which is based on the script of “ I know the answer, follow me “?

Most Probably , Yes Right !

This is because the increasingly complex & chaotic situations of the future makes it all the more difficult for a solitary strategic leader to envision viable future , see a solution , articulate to the followership and gain commitment.

I perceive that in the current context out of nine critical leadership capabilities of future as identified by PwC’s 2017 report on “Reimagining Leadership” , the capability of disruptive envisioning may relatively hold a lower significance against the other capabilities like a Generative Orientation towards Institution building, managing the multidimensional diversity & personal credibility . It becomes all the more critical for the leader to let go of the dominant leadership narrative and trust & leverage the potential of the distributed front runners.

In the process , I see that this results in the emerging significance of a generative style to the leadership which is based on the script of “I know the challenge & I invite you to decide what we ll do about it”. With this , the primary role of the leader changes to the one who just reframes the current issue into a compelling purpose that mobilizes the motivation of stakeholders , create containers for the new conversations to emerge, monitor & promote the most promising ideas (“Probes” as called by Snowden)by removing barriers and scale up successful probes.

And yes not to deny at the outset it may sound bit messy owing to the self organizing nature of the change and redefined role requirement of the leader.

However, this may turn out to be relatively more effective in navigating the complex situations by reducing the anxiety of not being all alone at the top. Not only that but it may also help develop an adaptive culture, build on the employee’s trust and create a psychological contract between employee & employer.

Having said that, adapting a generative leadership style also calls for a basic shifts in the mindset of perceiving the disruption as an opportunity for a new pattern to emerge rather than a disaster or a failure. Not only that but there emerges a more pronounced need for the leader to stay comfortable and lead through ambiguity (As identified in the Deloitte Human Capital Trends 2019 ) with a script that I don’t know the answer and am going to involve the stakeholders in an emergent process.

 

The ability to hold the apparent paradoxical state or contradictions with a mindset of “both-and” rather than “either -or” orientation becomes all the more critical.

Also there needs a basic change in the lens of viewing organizations from a simplistic biological system to a dialogic meaning making system.

With Emotional quotient taking a front seat its high realization on the importance of care & compassion for all the stakeholders is felt.

As I share the significance of a generative & distributed approach in helping the organization to adapt & navigate the ambiguity of disconnected events with speed , the critical question here is how much of a readiness or maturity do we have in terms of design, culture & capabilities to support a generative way of driving things.

Hence it becomes critical for the Human Resource Practitioners to reconsider their role towards acting as a disruptive change catalyst questioning the assumptions and beliefs of the system and as a proactive advocate creating the enabling factors to relook on the design, capability & cultural aspects of the organization.

Would like to hear your views on the subject ….

–By Arun

Authors bio:

Arun works in the Human Resources function of Schneider Electric as Associate General Manager and his past experience spans across organizations like GE , Cummins & Honeywell. As an Organization Development practitioner & Process Facilitator ,Arun feels passionate about the partnering & enabling the growth and development of individual, teams & organization to realize the innate potential of the system . He also strongly believes in the power of positive psychology & self as instrument of change.

Arun did his graduate studies in Electrical Engineering and post graduate studies(MBA) in Human Resources from SCMHRD. He is also certified in Project Management from PMI, Six Sigma from American Society of Quality, Hogan & DiSC tools . He currently pursues his ODCP from ISABS.

As an individual Arun values collaborating, embracing diverse perspectives, demonstrating openness to learn, being agile & resilient and delivering on commitment

In his free time he enjoys reading, sketching & volunteering.

 

Attributions:

  • Deloitte Human Capital Trends 2019
  • PwC’s 2017 report on “Reimagining Leadership”
  • Excellence in the New Ecosystem – PWC & NHRD Perspective

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