Creating Conversations that Matter
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How does change really happen?

What have been your real lived experiences with major change inside an organization? What was the initial catalyst? How did it migrate throughout the company? What might the model for that messy, complex change process look like? 

For me, the most appropriate metaphor is the hologram because it best captures the true complexity involved. Over the next few weeks, I plan on going into detail for each aspect of my model for change. For now, I invite you to simply reflect on the words and image and see what emerges for you as you think about your own lived experiences of change.

I once heard Meg Wheatley say that if you trace any major change back to its origin, it started with: “A friend and I were talking.” The example she shared was Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) which began when two women were chatting and discovered they both had lost children to drunk drivers. Their conversation deepened into wanting to make sure other mothers did not experience the same tragedy. They built their relationship, broadened their inquiry to many others, tried different approaches and built on those that seemed to work and learning along the way. Their initial connection and conversation in 1980 sparked a movement that has grown into one of the nation’s most respected non-profit organizations.

What about change inside an organization? Does it happen the same way? I believe it does. In fact, I think it is the only way that successful change occurs. And by successful, I mean long-lasting and beneficial to all stakeholders–change that lasts beyond the existing leadership! But how to convey that kind of messy, complex, emergent process in a two-dimensional graphic. Through conversations with my colleagues Patricia Shaw and Nic LeDourec, I came up with the model below. (Note: Models make me very nervous because they are both our best friend and worst enemy. Friend because they simplify the messiness and complexity of real life and help us make sense. Worst enemy because they simplify the messiness and complexity of real life and can easily give us a very distorted sense of reality! What a paradox!)

I call it a “holographic” model because even though it looks on the surface like 6 discrete steps, in actuality, every step is embedded in every other. Consider a hologram: When a laser is bounced off the plate a 3-D image appears. If that plate should break, a laser bounced off any piece will still reveal the WHOLE image (though dimmer). I chose the image of the fern to convey the fractal nature of the model. That is, that the pattern repeats at every level of detail.



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