Disassembling Change: How to manage change processes?

November 07, 2012 | bit-wartung | Learning Elsewhere |


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For you as development professionals change is your daily basis. You aim for, provoke and witness change processes. You steer projects and manage programmes. You take care that you partner organisations are strengthened. You are part of changing teams. Have you ever thought about what change is for you? And what it needs to effectively support change?

By Corinne Sprecher, AGRIDEA

Change can have many different faces.

Here are some pictures that came to my mind when I was thinking about change.

… needs care and attention like a small growing plant.
… is not unidirectional, not linear, it searches its path like a winding road onto a mountain
… is a continuous process, like waves shaping the rocks over long periods of time.
… means getting rid of the old stuff.
… involves knowing where we want to be heading to.
… implies pulling together… and doesn’t it sometimes feel like it is about convincing the
    others to switch to our side?
… is the interaction of different decisions that make the whole running into another direction.

Seven steps to manage change

Change is not only going from A to B. It is defining A and defining B; it is motivating people to join on the journey; it is providing resources and a realistic schedule for it; it is finding the right path, reconsidering and revaluating it after each step. Hence, change is a complex matter.
However, we all know, there are ways to manage change processes and to deal with its complexity. A useful framework to approach the manifold aspects of change in organizational development was described by Glasl et al. (2005). They divide change into seven basic processes.

1. Diagnostic processes:
… to develop a common understanding of the situation we are starting off from.
Diagnostic processes raise awareness of the problems, and how they came to be. What has brought us to where we stand now? And what are our resources and strengths that on which we can build on?

2. Future-design processes:
… to have a common notion of what we want to achieve.
Future-design processes focus people’s energy towards a desirable future. Not asking, what do we want to leave behind, but asking, what do we wish for in the best case? I.e. visioning processes, elaboration of future scenarios and concepts.

3. Psycho-social processes:
… to approach the new together with others.
The human aspect of change is crucial. Change means letting go old roles, relationships, attitudes etc. Pycho-social processes support these changes. They also address old or emerging conflicts and tensions.

4. Learning processes:
… to ensure that new knowledge and skills can be practiced.
Learning processes in this narrow sense support the other processes by making sure that in due time new knowledge and skills that will be required in future are identified and adequate training is provided. Pilot trials can be helpful to practice the new knowledge and skills and to improve.

5. Information processes:
… to keep those affected informed at the right place and right time and to communicate transparently.
Information processes accompany the other processes. They help to raise awareness among the affected as well as a broader public about what is going on. To find the balance between too little and too much information is tricky!

6. Implementation processes:
… to really introduce and “live” the new.
Implementation processes are not only about insuring that what has been decided is put into practices at the end, but it is a continuous process of reinforcing objectives and plans by “quick win” changes. They show early in the process, that change is happening and that it brings along benefits. It is also about having management act as models for the new.

7. Change management processes:
… to ensure that the change process is not getting completely out of hands and to assume responsibility for progress.
Change management processes represent the professional planning of the processes. This includes the provision of required resources, as well as ensuring the coordination and consistency of actions.
Key factor for a successful elaboration and implementation of a change process is the interaction of all these basic processes. This interaction can be compared to a knitting pattern for a pullover. Compared to the arrangement of different stiches in knitting, a change manager considers which basic process will be needed when in the undertaking, with which to start and on which to lay special effort when. Change does not always need to start with a diagnosis, but at some stage, you will probably need some information about the situation you are embarking from. Likewise the implementation process does not automatically have to be the last stage, in contrary it is advisable to plan for quick wins early in the process. There is no cooking recipe for change. It is up to a creative cook to decide based on the situation, when a spoon or a pinch of which basic process is needed. However, I find it very useful in my work, to keep all the seven basic processes as crucial ingredients for my cooking always in mind!

…What are you strategies to make change happen?

– Glasl, Friedrich, Trude Kalcher and Hannes Piber (eds.) 2005. Professionelle Prozessberatung. Bern, Stuttgart, Wien: Haupt Verlag and Verlag Freies Geistesleben.
– Pictures: Heragon Verlag GmbH (eds) 2010. Bildimpulse kompakt. Veränderung.


Comments to“Disassembling Change: How to manage change processes?”

  1. Ernst Bolliger says:

    Dear Corinne
    Thanks for this short summary of Glasl’s Change management concept. To answer your final question: In changes I have been actively involved in I had a vision and did a first step … and then things started moving and changing all around me.
    This is somehow the aspect I am missing in the seven steps: Observing the context in a change process. Once I start a change process, things start changing — people are reacting in a new way, opportunities show up, old things get left behind, new partners turn up.
    But after all the changes I have experienced, I am no more so sure to be the driver of change (as I am still thinking sometimes) — quite often I feel, the changes around me are the more decisive factors asking for adaptation. I close with the open question whether I am more pro-actively or re-acively managing my changes.

  2. Corinne Sprecher says:

    Dear Ernst,

    Thanks for your comment and contribution! This brings me to one essential addition: it is not – or not only – about planning change processes, it is about doing things or maybe not doing things, about observing, about reflecting, about re-planning etc. I agree, change is not predictable. But still, even if “just” observing, the model of these 7 basic processes can help me to understand better – a curative way of using the model maybe.
    Let me close with the question: Even if you feel, factors around you are the more decisive ones in change, does that automatically leave you to a re-active, or even passive role – not sitting down on the driver seat? I guess, even if you re-act to influences from outside, you actively play a role in how YOU deal with the change…


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