Implementing Change

To emphasize the differences between the Order and Complex systems, in Planning we introduced what a Change Manager does versus a Change Leader. In the following slide we’ll go one step further in splitting hairs and suggest Managers primarily drive in the Order side to enable the emergence of Stability. Leaders practice Agility on the “Unorder” side to navigate unexpected and planned disruptions.

  • Change Management – know the exact outcome, manage with 
    intuitive experience and facts to keep things under control
  • Change Leadership – have a sense of direction, influence co-evolution of the Present by loosening and tightening system 

Change methodologies

The principle behind Cynefin is to understand what type of system you’re in, what we call Ontological Awareness. It’s opening both eyes to see all 3 systems – Order, Complex and Chaotic.

What’s in your bag?

For the past twenty or thirty years in the Information Age, Systems Thinking has been the dominant paradigm. People have assumed that all systems are ordered, they can be engineered, they can be designed, they can be predicted. This is the If-then change hypothesis:

Change academics, consultants, and practitioners have unleashed solutions based on this thinking. Some of the more widely used ones are shown. Change Management defines an ideal future state, designs a linear roadmap, sets explicit milestones, and aligns people to close the gap.

Scaling assumes if the desired behaviour changes works here, then it will work there, there, and there. Aggregation is the corollary of reductionism. Clone & replicate.

Imagine that a hammer is an Order system tool. Proficiency is gained over time hammering nails. Common sense says do not even think of using a hammer to nail a screw. The self-evident step is adding a screwdriver (a complex system tool in the analogy) to the toolkit. Yet some would automatically grab a hammer and start banging away. Because of ontological unawareness, they can’t see that screws are different than nails.

New tools for the toolkit

In an Order system where there is a high level of unit buy-in and context alignment, clone & replicate works. Company-wide roll-outs can be accomplished and outcomes measured. However, if there are cries of “it doesn’t work here” or “we can’t do that”, it’s not resistance to change but people saying our context is different. If the pushback is serious, the astute Change Manager realizes a move from Order into Complex is necessary. Choosing to ignore complaints and insisting people “get onboard” is hammering a screw. It’s time to put the Change Leader hat on.

The change methodology switches from “clone & replicate” to “decompose and recombine.” Decompose into what are Order and Complex issues.  Recombine the Order by categorizing (Obvious domain) and analyzing (Complicated domain) to respond. Tackle the complex ones as a Change Leader would. In complexity language, an effective change implementation needs to be fractal in operations.

There are very few Change Leadership methodologies available. The most prominent is Cognitive Edge’s “Vector Theory of Change” using an anthro-complexity approach which has been in practice for over a decade. While tried, tested, and proven around the world, it continues to evolve and be a work-in-progress.

This summary diagram shows the 2 hats that a competent individual agent in charge of implementing change must be prepared to wear.