by Spiros Milonas

Let’s start by acknowledging a simple truth: organisations are living vibrant entities. We use the word organisations -from the word organisms- because from the begging of their creation (or birth if you may) they breathe, grow and evolve. While maturing, they develop their own personality (also known as culture). Same as you, now reading these lines, have done. In other words, truth number 1 is that organisations are not legal soulless entities with a tax ID number. They are rather living vibrant systems that start forming their substance from the day they are created.

Truth number 2: No transformation (whether it is cultural transformation, structural transformation or even, to use the buzzword, digital transformation) is easy. It usually involves resistance due to known or unknown loyalties to established patterns. Same as the challenges you have probably faced in your attempts to feel happier, freer, more balanced. On an individual level these entanglements can lie in your conscious or unconscious realm. It isn’t very different on a corporate level, with organisations having their own personality and established patterns! In the case of organizations, however, it gets a bit trickier since you have to deal with both the organisation’s conscious and unconscious, as well as the collective conscious and unconscious of the people that serve the business.

Truth number 3: We are the result of what we are surrounded by. We belong in systems that have their ordering forces, the rules based on which they operate. A system can be anything that you are a part of and connected to…starting from your family, your country and of course the company you work for. The 4 main ordering forces of human systems are related to:

  • Events that have happened in the course of time,
  • The extent to which everyone has the right place in the system,
  • The balance in all that is exchanged and registered by the system’s intuitive sense of what is owed or deserved as well as
  • including everything that needs to belong so that the system feels complete

The first step for a meaningful shift is “acknowledging the need for change”. On a personal level there is something that triggers your need for change. Luckily you decide for yourself because this is YOUR life and you can do anything you want with it. In a business the need might be identified by some members of the system yet still the chances for a successful transformation are greater if the founders (parents), leadership (guardians) and the majority of the employees (family) are behind it. This is crucial as the intention (clarity, acceptance, motivation) is what will fuel the organisation’s shift.

The second step is “Assessing what is”. A part of the truth is not the whole truth and can be misleading. Diagnosing and identifying the whole picture (both conscious and unconscious realm for the system) is of great value in order to know what you are TRULY dealing with and there are different ways to do so. Usually we all have blind spots. Otherwise our intended shifts would have been much easier.

The third step would be “planning for change”. Setting the course for the transformation with the necessary interventions. This is both delicate and important as you need to ensure you find the right mix between who to include, when to start, the frequency and type of interventions (what and how). To use Deborah Rowland’s wording, there is a clear difference between action and movement. Very often we get trapped in actions (it can be a very impressive combination of trainings, workshops, programs you name it) that will keep us in our current state and favor the loyalties we serve, versus movement that requires carefully designed interventions and will allow the system to shift.

The fourth step would be “Rolling out” and putting the plan into action. This is also critical as you need to be alert and adapt the plan based on the system’s reactions to what is happening.  The collective intelligence of the organisation will naturally want to settle at its comfort zone and what is known. Adjusting the plan and having clarity on what is expressed in any way is crucial. The interventions will create a movement within the system, and it is important to ensure that this movement is not blocked but rather nurtured at the pace that the system can manage.

The last step would be “Embedding the change” into the system’s DNA and creating a new reality. In this step there needs to be the necessary support that will allow the internal “movement” to continue turning the interventions into actions and new behaviors. The leadership’s role in this step of course is absolutely crucial.

There is no right or wrong when it comes to business transformations and each organisation (along with its members) decides for its future and fate. Life is about movement and this is exactly why changes can be challenging yet needed.