The world is in a constant state of change and that change appears to be happening with ever increasing speed. In 2011 the amount of data in the world is doubling every two years, 1.8 zettabytes of data. By 2016 the US was producing 2,657,700 gigabytes of internet data per minute. My mailbox(es) probably account for a large proportion of this. The world is different every minute and those that can successfully adapt can thrive.

Entire industries have sprung up to help individuals and organisations successfully deal with change. However with all this change noise there seems to be a pretty simple scale with directive change at one end and organic at the other.

Directive change:

Typically this kind of change is driven from above. This kind of change is often devised by experts. People with the power and authority to implement the change let everyone know what that change will be and when it will be in effect. I must admit on reading the above it’s not a terribly attractive idea. However directive change is often a force for good.

In 2017 the hole in the ozone layer began to shrink thanks to a directive change. All the countries of the world signed up to 1985 Montreal Protocol and agreed to phase out chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). A directive change determined by scientists and implemented by governments. I’m not sure what was in the water in 1985 that allowed the world to come together to solve a man made global problem but fix it they did.

Directive change is also your go to change in an emergency. For example when my daughter is about to step into the road without looking. An expert in road crossing with the authority tends to give some directive change.

So directive change works well when:

  • We have experts who can determine the best coarse of action.
  • When there is an emergency that requires immediate action.
  • When there is authority and power to implement.

Organic change:

Organic or natural change happens in a very different way. The problem is made transparent to all. People can then decide on the best way to act.

Also in 2017 the documentary series Blue Planet 2 was released. It showed the impact that plastics where having on our environment. By 2018 OnePoll consumer research showed that 88% of viewers in the UK has change their behaviour. No expert told them they had to, it was just made clear what the impact was of not changing. No body told them how to change their behaviour and when it would start. People did what they thought best.

So organic change works well when:

  • We can create transparency around the problem.
  • Where people are in an environment that encourages change.
  • Where people have the autonomy to act.

Businesses:

Business is all about change in this day and age. We need to be aware of where on the change scale we’re going to aim for and why.

If we’re looking at directive change then we best be really sure that the experts are not only qualified in their field but also in our context. We need to ensure that the emergency that necessitates the change is real and credible. The reason why we’re changing as well as the logic that determined how needs to be understood by all.

So your checklist should look something like this:

  • There is an emergency that requires immediate action
  • We have experts in the context of the change and the context of our company
  • We can provide a compelling narrative around why we should change

If we’re looking at organic change then we need to ensure that we’ve created an environment where change can happen. People need to the time and space to try different approaches. Failure needs to be an option, as long as it’s a learning opportunity. The problem needs to be completely transparent to all. Most of all people need the trust, respect and autonomy to implement change.

So your checklist should look something like this:

  • We have an environment where experimentation and learning is encouraged
  • We have complete transparency about the need to change
  • We have given people the trust, respect and autonomy to act

Conclusion:

We all need to change at some point or other. How we deal with that change should be an informed choice. Implementing change and hoping it is going to stick isn’t a strategy.

Chris Davey
Chris Davey

He has dedicated many years with organisations and teams to provide insight into agile ways of working and thinking. Chris provides coaching and mentoring to individuals who want to make positive changes within their lives.

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