Strategic Business Change: Seven Phases to Non-Displace-Ability — Part 3

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Photo by Randy Fath on Unsplash

This is the final part of a series on creating organizational change the leads to ongoing innovation and a non-displaceable position in the market. Last time, we laid out the first three phases of the process: setting a direction, aligning with stakeholders, and creating a value adding mindset. In this piece, we’ll continue through the remaining four phases.

Phase Four: Performance Links to Meaningful Work Across the Organization

With the understandings developed in the first three phases, each organization unit can now develop performance indices for the unit and create the performance efforts that ensure each of the indices and each person is tied to meaningful work. Many change efforts over the years have seen new “marching orders” come into the ranks but the work seems less meaningful and unconnected to the day-to-day work of the front-line operations and functional units. The work of connecting the entire organization to the external stakeholders must now be translated into goals and objectives and projects that achieve the “Unifying Self-Aligning Direction”. This work is necessary so that there is more flexibility to respond to market and customer changes, and to ensure each business unit has the ability to stay connected to the overall driving force of the organization.

Another key element here, however, is to ensure that the creativity of each individual can be contributed to the working of the business. Organizations that are truly self-aligning are so because each individual feels less like a “chess piece” for the management, and more like a key ingredient in achieving the “corporate direction and stakeholder performance indices.” They know how their uniqueness can add critical ingredients to the whole. This is a development process that requires that each individual gain and maintain and understanding of how their daily work results in specific business outcomes. Through this understanding they can increasingly see and appreciate the difference each person makes in that work.

Phase Five: Work Redesign

It is possible to design work and build capability using a better understanding of how the brain works, such that change is valued and embraced by those involved in the process. However, most organizations were designed based on the idea of a static working hierarchy where direction was spoonfed down through the ranks. For an organization to be fully self-aligning, it must have more organic work systems and structures based on the natural flow of the core processes and core purposes of the business.

Many organizations seek to change by beginning with work redesign or work restructuring. It is far more effective to do this work after the overall corporate direction is clear, after the organization knows how its needs to be working to achieve the “strategic direction” and after the organization members feel they understand the reason for the new design. It is then that the implementation of work design actually takes place, when creating a self-organizing work process, simultaneously with the building of capability to think more systemically and more developmentally. It is often said, “people are resistant to change.” This is not the case when approaching change through a new and shared understanding of the true nature of change and the elements of change that typically trigger resistance. Developing this understanding and designing from that new mindset is the essence of this phase.

A key difference in this form of work design is to require everyone to make a “promise beyond ableness” which is to contribute something significant to a stakeholder outside the business. It is beyond the current ability of the person making the commitment, would clearly benefit the stakeholder as measured by their terms, and will grow the person making the promise to deliver. They become self-directed, as part of a team, delivering on this promise. It has the effect of awakening motivation, creating new capability for the organization for the future, and building a business that is owned by everyone.

Phase Six: Personal Development Plans

To keep the self-aligning process alive, each member of the organization needs to have a personal development plan that is aligned with the “corporate direction and the performance indices of the business and the business unit”. This plan specifies what each individual will contribute to the achievement of the various organizational objectives and how these fit with the business direction of the whole. Built into the plan are personal development aims, learning and contribution objectives, and business measures which link to the business unit and the organization as a whole. The “promise beyond ableness” and the accompanying processes for reflecting on progress are part of this plan. It is further overtly and explicitly tied to earnings, margins, and cash flow.

Phase Seven: Continuous Improvement, and Development, and Regeneration

This phase is continuously overlapping with other phases. A culture of continuous evolution is being fostered, so that people are seeing all current efforts as fluid and subject to change based on ever changing factors in the market and business environments. The practice of self-reflection is taught and incorporated into each of the phases above and the processes of daily work. Individuals are taught to reflect on three levels: the personal, team/group, and unit levels and in relation to all stakeholders. Mental structures for such thinking are included in every phase.

Phases are, by their nature, recurring, as are phases of the moon and are not necessarily sequential at all times. Some will be more complete before others, but it will be necessary to renew each one to evolve the thinking to fit the new market and business environment.

The Regenerative Business

If you want to know more about my approach to work design from the living systems paradigm, see my award winning book The Regenerative Business. It shows how organizations are able to cultivate human potential to achieve extraordinary outcomes through the stories of businesses that have taken the developmental path.

About Carol Sanford

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Carol Sanford is a regenerative business educator, the award winning author of The Regenerative Business: Redesign Work, Cultivate Human Potential, Achieve Extraordinary Outcomes, and executive in residence and senior fellow in social innovation at Babson College. She has worked with fortune 500 executives and rock star entrepreneurs for 40 years, helping them to innovate and grow their businesses by growing their people. Learn more about Carol and her work at her website.

Sr Fellow Social Innovation, Babson | Best Selling/Multi-Award Winning Author | Regenerative Paradigm Educator

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