When planning to manage change you can either approach it in a dictatorial style (revolutionary change) or a Darwinian style (evolutionary change).
In a “dictatorial” or “revolutionary” approach to change, the change is usually called for and orchestrated by one specific individual and enforced by a closed group of “trusted lieutenants”. This sometimes works well if there’s a “burning platform,” a specific group driving the change, and little external input is required. This approach can also work in an atmosphere where the change is dependent almost solely on one person and their vision of where the organization needs to go.
A “Darwinian” or “evolutionary” change approach may also starts with an individual who is a catalyst for the change, though differs in how the change is implemented. In this approach, the leader works with Change Agents who are empowered to implement the change in a more collaborative way. This approach works best in an environment that encourages employees to be part of the process, seeks their buy-in, and helps the organization get to that desired state.
Which approach is best? That depends on the situation.
Sometimes in business there isn’t enough time to explain why everyone needs to achieve the desired state; the urgency of the change requires to “get onboard” as quickly as possible. Sometimes the business climate requires you to take drastic measures and only a “dictatorial” style of change will enable the business to survive. Not always the best way to go, but sometimes, the only way.
At Line of Sight, we take more of a Darwinian approach to change. We recommend having individuals to “sponsor” the change. These “Change Sponsors” see the opportunity (or need) to change and have a “vision” for the organization’s desired future state. In order for changes to be successfully implemented, the sponsors surround themselves with Change Agents. These Change Agents are charged and empowered to facilitate and model the desired changes in the organization. These selected agents cannot act in a vacuum. They take the vision from the sponsor and set on a path to understand the organization’s current state and create a design and implementation plan for achieving the desired future state. The Change Agents work with a team comprised of representatives from across the organization to enlist their help evolving the organization.
Evolutionary change take a considerable amount of work – developing a plan that captures a vision of the future, identifying necessary strategic decisions, and describing the path to transition to the desired future state. Remember, organizations don’t change – people change and this doesn’t happen without several activities, to name a few:
- Conducting “Discovery” sessions to build understanding;
- Receiving employee feedback through surveys, focus groups, town hall meetings to hear the “voice of the employee”;
- Designing relevant training to provide the tools for people to succeed in the new environment;
- Defining an appropriate rewards and recognition program to acknowledge end-user adoption of the desired changes; and most of all,
- Delivering solid communication to keep everyone informed and maintain progress on the change initiative.
Change doesn’t happen overnight and, to be honest, it is painful. Change takes a great deal of work, and with the right change team in place and constant and consistent communication, it can be a good evolutionary process that enables the organization to successfully meet their future head-on. It’s up to you how you approach change. But if you give me an option – I’ll follow Darwin!!