Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Context Driven Change Leadership

I spent my first day at CAST2014 in a tutorial facilitated by Matt Barcomb and Selena Delesie on Context Driven Change Leadership. I thoroughly enjoyed the session and wanted to share three key things that I will take from this workshop and apply in my role.

Change models as a mechanism for feedback

The Satir Change Model shows how change affects team performance over time.

Selena introduced this model at the end of an exercise designed to demonstrate organisational change. She asked us each to mark on the model where we felt our team were at by placing an X mark at the appropriate point on the line.

Most of the marks were consistently placed in the integration phase. There were a couple of outliers in new status quo and a single person in resistance. It was a quick and informative way to gauge the feeling of a room full of people that had been asked to implement change.

I often talk about change in the context of a model, but had never though to use it as a mechanism for feedback; this is definitely something I will try in future.

Systems Thinking

Matt introduced systems thinking by talking about legs. If we were to consider each bone or muscle in the leg in isolation, then they would mean less than if we considered the leg as a whole.

Matt then drew a parallel to departments within an organisation. Where people are focused on their individual pieces, but not the system as a whole, then there is opportunity for failure.

Matt spoke about containers, differences, and exchanges (the CDE model by Glenda Eoyang [1]). These help identify the opportunities to manipulate connections within a complex system.

Containers may be physical, like a room, but they can also be implicit. One example of an implicit container that was discussed in depth was performance reviews, which may drive behaviour that impacts connections between individuals, teams and departments in both positive and negative ways.

Differences may include obvious differences like gender, race, culture, or language. It also includes subtle differences like the level of skill within a team. To manipulate connections you could amplify a difference to create innovation, dampen a difference to remove harmful behaviour, or choose to ignore a difference that is not important.

Exchanges are the interactions between people. One example is how communication flows within the organisation. Is it hierarchical via a management structure, or freely among employees? Another is when someone comes to work in a bad mood they can lower the morale of those around them. Conversely, when one person is excited and happy they can improve the mood of the whole team.

In our end of day retrospective, Betty took the idea of exchanges further:

How will I apply all this?

I have spent a lot of time recently focused on my team. When I return to work, I'd like to step back and attempt to model the wider system within my own organisation. Within this system I want to identify what containers, differences, and exchanges are present. From this I have information to influence change through connections instead of solely within my domain.

Fantastic Facilitation

Matt and Selena had planned a full day interactive exercise to take a group of 30 people through a simulated organisational change.

We started by becoming employees of a company tasked with creating wind catchers. The first round of the exercise was designed to show the chaos of change. I was one of many who spent much of this period feeling frustrated at a lack of activity.

At the start of round two, Erik Davis pulled a bag of Lego from his backpack. He usurped the existing chain of command in our wind catcher organisation to ask Matt, in his role as "the market", whether he had any interest in wind catchers made from Lego. As a result, a small group of people who just wanted to do something started to build Lego prototypes.

Matt watched the original wind catcher organisation start to splinter, and came over to Erik to suggest that the market would also be interested in housing. Being a much more appropriate and easy item to build from Lego, there was a rapid revolt. Soon I was one of around seven people who were working in a new start up, located in the foyer of the workshop area, building houses from Lego.

There was a lot of interesting observations from the exercise itself, but as someone who also teaches I was really impressed by the adaptability of the facilitators. Having met Matt at TestRetreat on Saturday, I knew that he had specially purchased a large quantity of pipe cleaners for the workshop. Now here we were using Lego to build houses, which was surely not what he had in mind!

When I raised this during the retrospective, both Matt and Selena gave excellent teaching advice.

Selena said that when she first started to teach workshops, she wanted them to go as she had planned. What she had since discovered was that if she gave people freedom, within certain boundaries, then the participants often had a richer experience.

Matt expanded this point by detailing how to discover those boundaries that should not move. He tests the constraints of an exercise by removing and adding rules, thinking in turn about how each affects the ultimate goal of the activity.

As a result of this workshop I intend to challenge some of the exercises that I run. I suspect that I am not providing enough freedom for my students to discover their own lessons within the learning objective I am ultimately aiming to achieve.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing your highlights and the wisdom of facilitation that gives freedom to students to learn in their own way. It is something I have sensed for some time now when training, but not made the connection to the boundaries set by rules and constraints and how they can be used to allow freedom to learn. Thank you