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Managing for change is different from change management

Whenever organisations head for a change, we reach for the Change Management Toolbox. As experienced managers, we all know the essentials of stakeholder engagement, project management, training, and communication by heart.
Even though we strive to do the right things right, soon most of us learn - the hard way - that sustained change is hard to achieve, and it is basic knowledge from countless studies that the majority of change projects struggle to realize their full potential.
Popular explanations as 'unrealistic ambitions' or 'inadequate change management' may account for some failures. Still, an amazing number of perfectly orchestrated change initiatives sail into troubled waters.

The success of your change management efforts depends on your organization’s change capacity.

struqtures® founder Birgitte Clausen and Associate Professor Hanne Kragh, Aarhus University have studied what hinders or enhances organizational change capacity, and their research surfaces two interesting insights that go beyond general change management recommendations:

  1. that deep structures in organizations hinder change or pull things back in line
  2. that day-to-day management for change targeting deep structures can create organizations with a high capacity for change and innovation

The core message is, that you can significantly increase the success of the individual project, if your day to day management practices pays attention to factors, that increase the organizations overall change capacity.

Watch out for deep structures

Deep structures are relatively stable and reinforcing patterns that guide peoples’ behaviour, and as such, deep structures may hinder, limit, or enforce change.

Using an iceberg metaphor, change management is above the waterline while deep structures are below. Deep structures are invisible strings, ‘taken for granted’ ideas and patterns of behaviour, that guide

Deep structures are different from culture and climate. Instead, they are long-lasting consequences of organizational members’ interactions that shape culture and climate.

 

Deep structures are the strings that pull your organizations culture off track

It is an old refrain that culture eats strategy for breakfast. However, the mere thought of cultural change makes many management professionals take a deep breath and head for the next topic.

Culture is to abstract, too diffuse and to slow to change. And most people do not have the time, the patience, or the knowledge to really get started.

Our study offers good news. You do not need to run cultural change project to increase to increase your organizations’ change capacity.

4 areas of attention are essential to enable high change capacity

You can integrate certain practices in your daily management efforts, and thus manage for change and increase your organisation’s change capacity. In essence, you should emphasize 4 focus areas:

  1. enhance the relational structures in your organization. The better related your people feel, the faster the speed of change.
  2. beware of organizational myths and fairy tales from Once Upon A Time. Remember, that how we talk about past experiences shapes our expectations of tomorrow and determines our actions today.
  3. accept that emotions beat rationality. We normally cherish rationality as the uncontested good guy in management. However, behaviours at all levels of the organization are constantly derailed by strong underlying emotions.
  4. stop relying on your leadership autopilot. Fly manual instead. Even though they may have served you well in the past, your preferences, beliefs and organizational logics are most likely also your blindest angle and the enemy from within preventing you from achieving what you want most.

 

This Blog post is published in collaboration with Birgitte Clausen, Speaker, Trusted Advisor, and Managing Director at Structures, a Strategic Business consultancy focusing on Change Capacity. Learn more about the offerings of Struqtures here.

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