Tuesday, 2 October 2007

The answer to myth 1: Big change requires big actions

This is the commonly held belief that is behind the majority of so-called ‘large interventions’ or comprehensive, massive, expensive change management programmes. It is logically assumed that a significant change in the organization (whether it’s change of culture, ways of doing, etc. or a completely new direction) needs proportional efforts. And proportionate here means massive.

This model is consistent with ‘linear thinking’ or ‘linear dynamics, something very much embedded in our way of managing organisations. The reality is that we are surrounded by a non-linear world, where there is no apparent proportionality in the cause-effect as we see it. For example, in organizational terms, trust is not a terribly linear thing! Small things can generate high trust and small breaches can destroy it completely. There is no proportionality there!

Interestingly we all have examples of day-to-day life where ‘small things’ create havoc. I often warn my clients of this ‘tyranny of small things’: some rules, some bureaucracy, a few people creating disruption. We are used to this dis-proportionality but seem to have difficulty accepting that management of change also travels on disproportioned highways.

Viral Change knows all of the above very well and banks on the power of a small set of levers, behaviours, that can generate great change in a non-linear way. And we know that the organization highways for these behaviours contain things such as imitation, infection and tipping points. Change is most likely driven by a broad distributed leadership(Change Champions, for example).

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