• Dean Williamson

The complex approach to organisational change journeys

Updated: Mar 2, 2021

When we set out to do organisational change work, largely based in self-management and empowerment, we had a sense that we wouldn't be selling products, but selling our support to journey with our clients. This is based in our view that the success of a change effort is context-dependent, and will need to be sensitive to the system in which the change sits.

As we got into the work, we started trying to map the constant shifting of balance and attention which we felt was required to visualise effort and progress. This is because, in the middle of complexity, it can be hard to see where you are, what you're working on, and just how far you've come.

The mapping process also allowed us to add in data metrics throughout the process, in order to keep adding organisational capacity to self-monitor progress in practice-critical areas.


We've included a mapping exercise we did for one of our clients below. It looks pretty complex (which it is), but if you stand back and look at the flow, you can see where they've come from, where they're going, achievements/milestones, and all the 'headliners' of work that have helped them get there (or will help them).

We find this tool extremely useful for keeping a hold on change in complex organisational environments, but I haven't seen anything particularly similar. So it was nice to hear Amy Edmondson, the eminent professor from Harvard Business School say:

"One thing we know is that two organisation's journeys won't be exactly the same... It will be iterative. It won't be a beautiful blueprint. It will need input from everywhere, and it will be data-driven."

It's very affirming to hear a world-leader in practice land in the same place as us. It makes you feel good, and also makes you feel like you're not entirely alone in a still fairly fringe area of practice.

We don't try to start with a blueprint - as you can see, we start off with three beginning priorities, and then design-implement our way through change, sensing as we go.

Do you think this has a place in your organisation?

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