Change and inertia
|Concept by Steve Wheeler|
Recently, I was discussing change with teams of academic staff at a large university in the Southern Hemisphere, and as a result of the conversations I developed the model of change which is illustrated here. It synthesises the work of Clayton Christensen and others, and is a simple linear stage model that attempts to identify sequences of events that can lead to transformation of organisations. I propose that this model applies as equally to schools, colleges and universities as it does to large businesses - which I will refer to collectively as organisations.
The first stage, inertia - is the default position many organisations find themselves in when they realise that nothing is changing and as a result they may be at a disadvantage, missing out on key opportunities, or lagging behind their competitors. The realisation of a state of inertia may be just the trigger leaders or managers need to convince themselves that 'something should be done', and for a process of change to be instigated.
The second stage, iteration, is where the organisation attempts to do something new or different to improve the current practices or processes of the organisation. For some this may promote enough changes required to regain competitiveness, but for many this may not create sufficient impetus.
|Concept by Steve Wheeler|
The final stage (and I suspect it may not be the final stage) is disruption. This is a word that is liked and loathed in equal measure by everyone with whom I discuss change. It is liked because it signifies a sea change in the way things can be done, so that previous processes or activities are made obsolete. It is disliked, or even feared, because of the connotation of the word - that disruption is something to be avoided because it upsets people, makes them uncomfortable and takes the entire organisation on a journey into the unknown. People like certainty and are more comfortable in familiar contexts than they are in the unknown and unpredictable.
I have included a 'transformation event horizon' in the model. It was borrowed loosely from the work of Prof Kevin Burden (Hull University) which indicates that at a specific juncture in the change process, new processes and actions emerge that make it undesirable to return to the old practices.
Disruptive forms of innovation are desirable in that they can open new doors for organisations, and provides a new impetus for the organisation to develop and grow in unexpected directions. However, there is a caveat. When disruption is sudden and abrupt, it may become too far reaching or uncomfortable as to have deleterious effects on people within the organisation. Too much change, at too rapid a pace could drive the organisation back into inertia, where all the previous good work is undone. Therefore change management needs to be conducted in a sensitive and measured manner. I'll write more on this model when I have had time to think through the implications, and as ever I'm receptive to constructive comments (please use the box below) about this work.
Change and inertia by Steve Wheeler was written in Plymouth, England and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.