Distributed change models

Wendy Wickham added some very useful comments to yesterday's post on change: Questioning the feasibility of change.
In an ideal world - organizational change would occur somewhat organically. There is a known problem that is clear to all. The change process is triggered only when a solution presents itself.
The idea of changes triggered by solutions ties into a favorite approach of mine called "appreciative inquiry". When changes are triggered by perceived problems, we get more problems. We commiserate some more on how bad things are and speculate on things getting worse. We dwell on the pothole instead of the paved road. We see our way to further suffering, misery and self pity.

When changes are triggered by solutions, we get more solutions. We collaborate on the basis of how resourceful we are. We build on what's working to resolve more issues. We see our way to further satisfaction and creativity.
It shouldn't simply be a matter of explaining "why" it would be better. You (and the affected parties) will figure it out from discussing "if" it will be better. It's getting people involved in the DECISION for change rather than the buy-in.
Buy-in implies a done deal from on high; a "plan from the man". Bottom up innovations, distributed intelligence models, flat organizations and social networking content generation -- all dismiss "buy-in". It's time to "stick it to the man" and rebel against imposed changes. As Wendy suggests, the time to discuss the change is before the decision gets handed down.

The people close to the action (users, problems, issues, patterns of response) can call the shots better than those with the reins in their hands. Top-down decisions are usually overly-simplistic and unresponsive to systemic complexities. The decisions "throw money" at problems and alienate the constituencies. Bottom-up decisions factor in more variety, complexity and existing resources. They unify and validate the contributors to successful change efforts.
The action of change is so much more glamorous than meandering around the office gathering opinions from the underlings. Opinion-gathering can be demoralizing and grueling if you have your heart set on a particular decision.
Consumer polling occurs when products are designed and getting tested. Product design teams go watch users in the field deal with their problems before creating new products. When we learn from the implementors before change is conceived, the final solutions will work far better. The networked market for the change gets into the act. The change evolves organically, as Wendy said. The revise practices come about through authentic conversations, relationships and collaborations.

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