A Change Reaction Model


Earlier this year I was fortunate to get an invite to an awesome event in Sedona, AZ. What an incredible week. You can read about UTAOU here. At least for the next few months, the stuff posted here will be directly connected to that event.

Leading up to UTAOU, I read a few things that got my wheels turning. One of these articles by Reuben Tozman on eLearn Magazine titled “Going Mainstream”. In the article, Reuben highlights the shortcomings of a profession too often loosely coupled with the business strategy to meet it’s obligations (as a profession). I can’t disagree with this view or the view expressed in this post, also penned by Reuben. In fact, I’m in vehement agreement. Reading these articles, I thought to myself, “self, this seems like a simplification of the issue. It seems to point to individuals as the root cause.” Isn’t there more to it than this?

So I set off to build my own simplified model of change reactions and the conditions that accelerate or inhibit these reactions. While at UTAOU, I grabbed some spare moments to sketch the model. And here’s what I came up with.

The Factors

This really simple model consists of three factors that contribute to change in an organization. This doesn’t imply positive or negative change. But I think it does imply meaningful change of some kind.

  • Control – Do you have a seat in the cockpit?
  • Incentive – Do you want change bad enough to commit?
  • Capacity – Do you have the right tools, skills and manpower?

The Contexts

Several contexts can appear when these factors are combined or excluded. The model identifies common contextual combinations of these factors. Each of these combinations is labeled with a metaphor:

  • Ready and willing passenger
  • Overeager pilot
  • Ready but unwilling pilot
  • Ready and willing pilot

Ready and willing passenger


The first context is what I call the ready and willing passenger. In this situation, those who desire the change have the motivation and capacity to change but lack the influence to action the change. This context seems common among the professionals I’ve talked to and is what I think Reuben is calling out in the article above. Many folks have the capacity to change and really want to change the way learning and performance integrates with business outcomes, but don’t have a seat at the table.

Overeager pilot


I call the second situation the overeager pilot. This is also common. I’ve seen this plenty in government. Folks that don’t have the capacity but have the resources, incentive and control to initiate a change or push an initiative.

Ready but unwilling pilot


The third situation is the ready but unwilling pilot. In this situation, the folks in control or with the most influence also have the capacity to institute the change, but don’t have the incentive to do so. In the context of learning and performance, think about content vendors. Why change the game if the current game is bringing home the bacon?

Ready and willing pilot


And the last combination detailed in the model is the ready and willing pilot. This is where it all comes together and the initiative can push forward at full speed with high confidence of some level of success and persistence.

This is simplified and I could be wrong

This illustration assumes that only one of the three legs is missing. Certainly there are many contexts where only one of the three factors is present, but these tend not to be notable in terms of conflict.

There are other factors at the individual level that I see as subsets of these factors. I’ve hinted at these in comments at the articles linked above. Those factors may get some attention in a future post.

This simple model resonates with me. I could be wrong.

What do you think?

This is an attempt to illustrate a simplification of an often infinitely complicated work situation. That said, where does your situation fall? Does this model resonate with your experiences?

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