Driven to collaborate

When any change needs to occur, there is always a question of what will drive the change. Usually the need for change does not drive the initiatives, transitions and follow through efforts. If that's all it took to realize the change, the need for it would have already been eliminated. It's helpful to consider other drivers.

A change to collaborative approaches can easily meet with lots of resistance. Portions of an enterprise may have walled itself off in isolation to avoid scrutiny, interference or compromises. Individuals may have amassed a lot of power, staff, or discretionary budgets which could get diminished by a transition to collaborative approaches. Others may have evolved into "prima donnas" who insist on being right, experience a crisis when made wrong and reject any feedback as invalid. A collaborative culture would induce chronic anxiety in these traumatized people. For these reasons and many others, proposals and pilot efforts to increase collaboration could encounter a wall of resistance.

Change drivers need to be stronger and more clever than the resistance. Rather that picturing the opposition getting overcome, subdued or backed into a corner, a better approach will emerge from a more collaborative approach. Resistors have lots of experience, deep investments and good reasons to oppose increased collaboration. When their thinking gets acknowledged, respected and understood by proponents, a change comes over their outlook. Their closed minds open, their guard gets lowered and their receptivity to new information increases. Whenever this change of heart and mind occurs, other change drivers may prove to be effective.

Here are the four change drivers I consider when formulating a strategy:
  • Getting on a bandwagon - Early adopters of a change can infect others with their enthusiasm. They give off the impression the change is beneficial, enjoyable and the right thing to do. Conformity pressure emerges for others to not miss out, get left behind or get set in their ways.
  • Defend against an common enemy - Alarmists can rally the troops to change so as to not fall victim to impending threats. The dangers get magnified to fuel the anxieties, reactions and convictions that the change is necessary at any cost. When the change can then be implemented at a "cost savings", it looks like bargain rather than a burden.
  • Follow the leader to a better place - Leaders of a change effort can create a shared vision of where they are taking people. They paint a word picture of the better situation that lies on the other side of a difficult transition. They inspire others to look forward to the same improvements that soften the sacrifices involved.
  • Find it within yourself - Facilitators can bring out the best in people, invoke their consciences and inspire them to serve a greater purpose. They remind people of their potential to make a difference, impact others in their lives and leave a legacy others will admire.

None of these drivers produce needed changes when minds are closed, opposing stances have been taken and thinking has been polarized. They take effect superbly when minds are open, stances have been combined and thinking has become creative.

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