Leading Organizational Change through large group interventions

group interventions

Organizational change is a constant nowadays. Few organizations have been spared from major changes: either the introduction of a new technology, changes in the operation, or in the services they offer, or even adapting to new expectations of their customers or users. Organizational changes, when are not designed and implemented properly, leave employees (or members of the organization) feeling disappointed, discouraged, angry or in the worst case scenario, resentful and resistant to new changes.

Designing and implementing an organizational change is core to the success of that, and future changes.

Who should be involved in a change effort?

I am often asked this question. Some of my clients want to embark in a major organizational change with the less people possible. Meaning: they want to design and implement the change in a need to know basis. The problem is that they usually don’t involve the people who are going to be affected by the change.

Change is particularly difficult when we don’t find a sense of alignment in the process, and also, when the process is not transparent and people don’t trust the process.

Lack of clarity happens when the change doesn’t make sense, when we’re just concerned with the execution of a new process, or our own goals, without having our customers’ needs in mind. When the vision is not communicated and the expectations are not discussed. When we go back and forth and adjust the plan several times because we realize that we’re trying to run before walking or when the future state is not aligned to our values or our strategy.

On the other hand, a change process is not transparent if we need to hide what we’re doing, or fi we want to communicate only what we believe people “need to know”. If this is the case, we will lose soon the trust of everyone. When people are not involved, when they are just peons in the larger game, people feel frustrated.

This change we’re so concerned with, is not going to be the final change. Organizations are now immersed in constant transformation. We need to ensure that the stakeholders in this process, people who is going to be impacted by the change, will keep supporting future changes.


Creating Sustainable Change

So, how can we create and sustain change that is aligned, transparent and collaborative? We engage the stakeholders. We allow people to contribute with their ideas and we listen to their needs. We see them as human beings and we understand that is not that people don’t like change, it’s that they don’t like change to be imposed to them.

Instead of justifying why we want to do things without them (usually because the high demand of the operation), we think of different ways of bringing everyone to the table. 


But I don’t want to go to unnecessary meetings…

If the meeting doesn’t call for everyone’s collaboration, the more people you have in the meeting, the less gets done. There is no sense of harmony and everyone has their own agenda. Unless of course, you organize a large group meeting with the large group in mind. The way of organizing and facilitating critical mass meetings is radically different than a regular business meeting, as it needs to allow everyone’s creativity and energy to  be explored and used effectively.

Large Group Interventions

If you haven’t been into a Search Conference, a Participative Work Redesign,  a World Cafe, an Open Space or a similar intervention, it’s time for you to check it out. Large group interventions, also called Critical mass events, are the kind of events that can really generate Change with a capital C in an organization. They’re based on the Socio-Technical Systems Theory, that approaches Organizational Development by analyzing the organization in three levels, allowing people to have a whole system view:

  • Outside forces – customers, market forces, community, competitors, and change
  • Technical systems – the processes used to create and deliver products and services
  • Human side of the organization – rewards, motivation, talent development  and the relationship among people

This has created a “new” (although it has been around for several years) way of leading change in organizations. Instead of having a committee that would collect data about the organization, which is a slower and biased way of promoting change, that requires the committee being able to sell the change initiatives to the organization, now we can bring the entire system into a room and work intensively in designing initiatives that consider everyone’s point of view. In this way, the changes will be sustained as people that participate (and whose voices are heard) will be already committed to new ways of working. Everyone who can make a decision is in the room, so there is no need to wait weeks for an answer.

Working this way also has the benefit of improving teamwork, increasing employee engagement and working more efficiently, because the system can re-design the way it works and get rid of the processes that no longer support the organization’s goals.

If your organization needs a real change, perhaps it’s time to start thinking about a large group intervention.

For more details, click here: http://imixcocreation.com/services/facilitation/