“Adaptive work is difficult work. And when it takes the form of an organizational change, it can easily get out of hand and fail. As you have surely experienced yourself, in a process like this there is disequilibrium and tension, people perceive loss and react in varying ways, different factions emerge and take positions, uncertainty is rampant, plans fail, and experimentation becomes necessary. Guiding this type of process is highly demanding and requires a wide range of skills.” -via Juan Carlos Eichholz Adaptive Capacity: How Organizations Can Thrive in a Changing World
We live in a world that is fueled by tension.
There is positive tension. Negative tension.
Tension that fuels us forward and tension that binds us back.
Tension from the past, tension in the present and tension for the future.
And then there is the tension of change…
A tension stretched taut by the pull of the volatility, uncertainty, complexity and the ambiguity that accompanies and amplifies any change effort or initiative. Pulling on individuals and the organization. Causing chaos amidst the calm. Noise in the quiet. Pulling us out of our insulated silos. Requiring leaders to seek out the signals reverberating out of these shifts, continually deciphering and determining what these signals are saying and asking what you are going to do about it?
Often leading to even greater tension and disequilibrium.
As the individual and organizational efforts of the change initiative increase, so does the level of chaos and noise being amplified, often diminishing our ability to decipher these signals. However, it is only in our ability to gain greater awareness and understanding of these signals, that we are able to cascade deeper organizational coherence and clarity amidst those facing the chaos and complexity of the change process. It is in that awareness and understanding, and the capacity that we choose to create, that we are able to slowly dissipate the turbulence, tension, anxiety and disequilibrium that accompanies these adaptive challenges that come with change.
However, many organizations still choose a command and control strategy to alleviate the tension and disequilibrium brought on by change. They choose to move farther away from autonomy and capacity-building towards structures focused more on power, control, hierarchy, and linear processes as a way of dealing with the dynamics associated with change. Hoping to create safety in the midst of chaos, but most often only diminishing the process, leading to greater frustration and dysfunction across and throughout the organization.
To effectively push through this disequilibrium, we have to determine the individual and organizational capacity necessary to loosen and push people through these bands of tension pulled taut, that we may keep our individuals and the organization as a whole from recoiling back to the status quo core of the past. Rather, we must focus our efforts on using the tension and disequilibrium of change not as a crutch for non-action, but rather as a dynamic force for creating individual and organizational breakthrough experiences, and eventual transformation.
It is only through individual and organizational capacity that these transformational breakthroughs are achieved, and we actually achieve the epiphany of change. It is in our capacity-building efforts that the tension and disequilibrium wrought on by change is able to be redefined and repurposed for growth and autonomy, rather than politics, power struggles and dysfunctional structures and processes. It is only in this shift, that change can emerge as a more productive and transformational process for our individuals and organizations.
“No two change processes are the same, but all share certain patterns. There is always disequilibrium and tension; people perceive losses and react; different factions emerge and take positions; there is uncertainty; it usually takes more time than expected; not everything works the way it was planned; and experimentation is necessary.” -via Juan Carlos Eichholz Adaptive Capacity: How Organizations Can Thrive in a Changing World