Roles for Creating Change

In 1970, George M. Prince the co-founder of Synectics, both the firm and the methodologies, wrote the seminal book on creativity called The Practice of Creativity.  The opening passages included these lines (quoting Tom Alexander’s,1964 Fortune article “The Wild Birds Find a Corporate Roost”, ).

You can change they way other people have changed already or you can change in a new way.  You can follow or you can lead.  You can wait until you find out how other firms have coped with or exploited the projected challenges, and then copy them, or you can think up original ideas that they have not hit upon.  If you do that, you’re being creative in the fullest sense…

…A leader may change the map of Europe or the breakfast habits of the nation or the capital structure of an engineering corporation; changing things is essential to leadership and changing them before anyone else is creativeness.

In the first page or two in the book, the work “change” appears in some form eleven times.  Change is the constant need of organizations who have the foresight from its leaders to seek the solutions to the opportunities and problems that exist today and the anticipated needs of the organization in the near future.

No one likes to talk about organizational change.  After all, the re-engineering that organizations took in the late 80’s and 90’s to restructure, downsize, off-shore, etc. left the notion of Change as being a negative event–when was the last time an organization changed for a good reason?

So how do we create change in our organizations without the stigma associated with the memories of the negative aspects of change?

Organizations need to engage the whole of the organization.  What I mean by that is, provide a way for a ground up approach to the desired future state.  Engage every employee in the process by giving them a role and responsibility to seeing the future vision enacted.  Create functional responsibilities and truly engage everyone on the individual basis to accomplish the journey of the change…the journey is more important than the destination.

Roles for Creating Change:

When seeking out employees to assist in helping realize a future mission, I think it is important to find those who can be labeled at the intersection of four characteristics:

What they love to do:  Find employees who first want to be involved.  We must realize that everyone will have something to offer in achieving the future state of the organization.  To gain buy-in and support for creating change, we need to engage with the employees who love to be involved.  Finding what they love to do…in terms of being a part of the process is very easy.  We have to ask.

What else they are good at:  Everyone has a knack.  Something that they can do that they are not necessarily being employed to do.  Someone in accounting may also be very good at photoshop and creating presentations.  However, we have hired that person to be our accountant and we never really get to see what else they are good, even great at accomplishing.  We need to seek out the hidden expertise of our employees to make the changes happen.

What they are paid to do:  This is why they got hired.  This is what they do in their everyday role and at the same time may be lacking the employees full efforts just because it has become easy for them to be successful in their role.  In creating change, you must position the importance of continuing success in their day-to-day work.

What the organization needs:  When creating change, this is the trump.  You have created a future vision that will require excellence from their day-to-day work and a necessity for each person to take on new tasks and work within a construct that might be ambiguous or completely different at times in order to realize the goals and objectives that have been defined.  What the organization needs will fluctuate during this time and the employees will have to as well.

Creating Change Roles:

Leadership are the ones who typically drive the change need.  They are responsible for identifying and envisioning the future state of the organization.  As a tactic, they usually employ consultants and other senior leaders to organize the work to be done–not necessarily rolling up their sleeves and getting dirty with the day-to-day needs of making the future vision possible.

I have identified 4 unique roles that will help you enable the future vision to take place.  Giving each of them an opportunity to provide their own thoughts and essentially their own DNA into the desired future state.  Each role, has a purpose and provides outcomes so that the change can be realized:

Thinkers:  These are typically the employees who are in the trenches of the business.  These are the ones who make the organization run on its foundation.  These are also the people who have their ear to the ground and interact with your customers, vendors, suppliers and everyone else that you have relationships with in order to be a successful business and deliver a quality product.

Their role in the change process is to provide the new thoughts and ideas to achieve the future state.  They are not necessarily the ones who are charged with activating and engaging in implementation, and at the same time have the ability to see the organization in minute details so that they can help provide the stimulus for the change itself.

Problem Solvers:  These are the employees who are charged with not only thoughts and ideas for the organization, they are also enlisted to help overcome the gaps and concerns from the organizational perspective.  They are also the managers of teams who will be tasked with providing concepts to the organization on different levels of need that solve the problems that are occurring with the change process.

Catalysts:  These employees have a higher level of access in the organization.  They are made up of thinkers and problem solvers who you might consider the future of the organization and high potential employees.  We ask these employees to help with the design and facilitation of the worksessions that are needed to overcome the biggest needs and gaps to implementation.  They also facilitate and manage the climate of the organization by interacting regularly with the thinkers and problem solvers and helping to dispel and overcome perceptions that might derail any initiative.

Collaborators:  These are the leaders who are responsible for the final implementation of the concepts and ideas to bring the organization to the new future state.  Collaborators are a special breed of leader who take on the incubation and implementation phases of the change.  They are responsible to bring synergy across the organization by inviting additional feedback, new ideas and continually socializing the impact of the changes on the organization and the teams and individuals across the functions.

In the end, any organization looking to create change in the way they operate, the structure and talent exists internally to make it happen efficiently and effectively.  The journey of creating the change will provide a way to engage, develop and grow each employee who is involved.

Don’t leave the change processes to a few.  Engage the organization in a creative manner so that you are tapping into the passion, jobs and functions of each person so that the mission can be achieved.

As George M. Prince concluded The Practice of Creativity”:

The conscious practice of creativity as an everyday activity is particularly valuable because it permits you to rationalize, accept and gradually expect miracles…


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