In his Harvard Business Review article “Why Change Programs Don’t Produce Change,” HBS professor and consultant Beer argues that managers need a certain “mindset for managing change” and that “change is ultimately about learning.”
The more we’ve evolved our own business model, we’ve learned (pardon the pun) that critical to our own client’s success is focusing on building that learning plan around customers, but also not forgetting that we’re facilitating a process of learning for our clients and their stakeholders. While focusing on building a “learning organization” is quite trendy in some spaces, it’s critical to clients who wish to take a customer centric approach. As we facilitate that approach, we’re both building a learning plan and modeling how to really embrace learning at the organizational level and getting our clients to reflect with us on insights and what they mean for their business.
Being successful at that level requires a fundamental understanding of organizations themselves. In discussing the plethora of research and studies – from trendy to academic – on organizational behavior, I always find myself gravitating back to the premise that organizations are inherently paradoxes, as articulated by the Complexity Theory:
- If organizations give in to forces of stability, they become ossified and change is impaired
- If organizations succumb to forces of instability, they will disintegrate
- Success is achieved when organizations exist between frozen stability and chaos
The most successful change initiatives Kelton has led to date embrace the tensions that come from organizations’ existence as paradoxes. They prioritize the balance of work with reflection, the strategic with the tactical, internal learnings with insights from their customers. And perhaps most importantly, they do it from the start by embracing an attitude of learning.