I recently met with a CEO of a large corporation. He was demoralised and confused by the limited impact a 3-year culture change program had, in which they had invested EUR 300 000. Despite a substantial effort, it seemed it was a waste of money.
However, there were many aspects at the beginning that they got right.
What did they do Right?
- The change was initiated and supported at board level
- During the change program, a clear vision and goals were developed, which fuelled a sense of urgency
- Change management efforts (information about the change) targeted top level, middle management and pockets of people across the company
- The change program provided staff with a menu of options such as workshops, team meetings or one on one coaching to help them embrace the changes
- Changes were rolled out and supported over a substantial period of time
- They celebrated and marked important milestones
- The team leaders had an active role in facilitating change with their own teams
Yet, this organizational change failed?
Otto Scharmer warns that the moment we (as leaders) commit ourselves to our highest possible future scenario, (and ideal change) we start to encounter our three principal enemies: the voice of judgment (VoJ: shutting down the open mind), the voice of cynicism (VoC: shutting down the open heart), and the voice of fear (VoF: shutting down the open will). This results in much resistance.
- The Chairman seemed to be fully on board at the outset, but quickly lost interest and it was visible to all
- The Chairman's lack of support (his VoC) for the program was not raised with him this had a snowball effect
- In the culture of this organization, it was customary to preserve harmony and stability at all costs. Therefore when concerns or issues were noted or raised, they were quickly minimized, shut down or ignored (VoF).
- Senior managers could not really buy-in to the change since the chairman's attitude undermined the program. It was therefore not 'politically correct' for managers to act as role models for change (VoF)
- People in the organization, as well as the change leaders, defended the status quo and remained silent, and in denial of resistance (VoJ)
- The organization lost the 'critical mass' which is needed to reach the tipping point for changing the old, dysfunctional, obsolete status quo (VoF)
Solution: Strategic Systems Coaching
In organisations like the one in this case, the executive leadership is the portal to change the rest of the organisation. If commitment and trust are lacking at the executive and management level, it will be difficult to develop leadership and achieve real organisational change. This commitment and trust is therefore vital, and systems coaching is one way to keep this on the agenda and not let it slide.
Strategic systems coaching means coaching an organisation's leadership so that the organisation can change as a whole system. In our Strategic systems coaching process, we apply various coaching processes to change management methodology. This is a highly effective way to facilitate a more connected, integrated and complex organisational systems through change.
We provide an opportunity for leaders to step back and look at the elements of their organisation and the relationships with and between these elements, and then to examine how these relationships and elements dynamically interact via feedback loops. The VoJ, VoC, VoF can be heard and managed during coaching as part of any organisational reinvention.
Changing is not just about doing the right stuff, It rests on true commitment of the spirit and heart of the people to make the changes.
Along every step of the way, leadership influences the existing culture by either facing or ignoring the underlying convictions of (fear, judgement, and cynicism) that derail real change.
Our systems coaches help organisations to change as a whole system and make the journey smoother and more effective.