During discussions with senior executives they express a degree of concern. Regardless of good intentions and initiatives they agree that real change is difficult. How do leaders bring about systemic change?

The success of corporate change management programs often relies on people who are early adopters and influencers. Supporting these people to understand the change process and how best to use their skills and position as a ‘change agent’ is important for the success of the transformation initiative.

Our change agent coaching discussions can range from the need for change, to understanding how change happens, to awareness building, to consequences of certain actions, to competing commitments, to implementation enablers or barriers, to reinforcement.

Coaching discussions can also explore:

Sticky change - to kick-start a change process, there must be a significant impact on the business, including those activities that add customer value, lead to competitive advantage, do things that are distinctive, reduce costs or ease the bureaucracy. This may mean taking commercial business risks. The stakes to succeed can be high. However, the way forward can stall because of one, or all, of these roadblocks – context, complexity, conflict and commitment.

Trust - what needs to be in play for mutual trust and what gets derailed when trust is lacking.

Proactive thinking - to be proactive, requires two basics. First, you have to imagine what the future will look like by building scenarios and considering their effect. Second, you have to take risks, having the courage to take action. Organisational culture and work practices are two areas that come to mind.

Beyond structural change - merely making structural changes cannot change defensive patterns or address causal loops. Change is complex and layered. At one level it can be simply changing what we do. Companies can take actions to achieve outcomes, without having to change the way people work. The second level is to change not what we do, but how we do it, to change the system. At the deepest and the most difficult, is to change who we are and what we stand for.

Dynamic sub-systems - organisations are systems that change continuously. In fact, everything is part of a system or sub-system. These systems and sub-systems, which interrelate, do not necessarily change at the same rate; some change faster than others. This creates stresses. As an example, while gender diversity efforts are attempting change at one rate, the related pressing need to redefine cultures and the way of work is lagging.

Commitment mapping - where people sit on the commitment matrix is revealing. There are those that will be champions, those that passively wait and see and those that will resist – overtly or covertly. Then there are those whose futures are linked to the success of the change agent and they support the change whether they think it is right or wrong. Safe and meaningful conversations can uncover the thoughts and feelings behind these views and develop new approaches to engage or support.

Multi-faceted resistance - people will protect their position or do what they feel is needed to prevent loss. They may not have the time, skill or resources to make a difference, even if they think it’s the right thing to do. They may find it difficult to accept the need to learn new things, and, more importantly, to unlearn some of the things that brought them success in the first place.  If the proposed change does not fit with their value systems, they may never become supporters.

Action-learning - action-based approaches facilitate the change journey as they are based on an insightful adult learning concept: people are more likely to act their way into new thinking, than to think their way into new actions. ‘Action-reflection-action’ permits individuals and organisations to adapt continuously.

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