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Advancing your OD practice – Part 3

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  Part 3: Self as Instrument for OD   Guest blog from: John Hovell PMP, CKM, ODCP   You are the primary “instrument” in OD! Organisational Development is a wide and varied field, but let’s not overwhelm ourselves, it simply starts with you. You are the primary instrument for OD work. We call this “use of self” or “self as instrument”. Many practitioners have written about this concept, especially Dr Mee-Yan Cheung-Judge. According to her, Use of Self basically means that we “dedicate time to the on-going maintenance of both self-knowledge and technical expertise.”[1] We continually develop ourselves to hone our practice and extend our OD range. There are many mindsets, skillsets and toolsets that we bring into OD, and yet they all rely on our ability to continually develop our primary instrument, which is our self. The concept of Use of Self is nearly as broad as the field of OD! Self as Instrument Overview Let’s continue to describe the concept of “use of self”. There are dozens of broad definitions for Use of Self, we will offer a few here. For a more detailed description of Use of Self, we have Mee-Yan’s permission to share her latest research with Professor David W. Jamieson. In that research, they use nine (9) “clusters” to help describe the different areas of Use of Self. For even more detail on these clusters, as well as a self-assessment, please visit their website. Definitions and Dimensions of Use of Self Use of Self is a broad and ambiguous concept. The definitions below come from known experts to help frame the general territory. Dr Mee-Yan Cheung-Judge “Whenever we are in flow with our external observation and awareness, our internal awareness of the “here and now”, and using resources we have (e.g. intellect, cognitive ability, perceptual insights, emotional texture, personality, experience, values, character, skills, social sensitivity, etc.) based on our discerning judgement/intentional choice of decisions as to what right course of action we are willing to put ourselves on the line to execute the work in order to achieve the impact the situation requires” Mary Ann Rainey and Brenda B. Jones “Acting on feelings, observations and thoughts to advance the work of the client” Charlie Seashore “Consists of intentional, conscious and deliberate choices which result in action/behaviours taken to bring about change”. More Detail Inside the 9 Clusters of Use of Self Building upon those examples of broad definitions for Use of Self, there are 9 clusters that further describe the detail areas of Use of Self. They intend to help describe the key areas of Use of Self in more detail. Each cluster is described below. Cognitive Cluster The Cognitive Cluster refers to an individual’s ability to “see and think” through situations. For example, in the Cognitive Cluster we consider an individual’s cognitive ability to sift through data and make sense and meaning out of it. The more sense and meaning we can make out of all the data available to us, including un-documented or even invisible “felt” data, the potent our Use of Self can be. Further examples in this cluster include our cognitive ability to perceive and express strategic insights in seeing human systems. Seeing from a systems point of view and ability to tolerate ambiguity are also key aspects of the...

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Organisational change: finding your way

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Journeying into the unknown Organisational change is a journey into the unknown, along changing terrain. Finding your way in that changing terrain requires (i) new understanding about the dynamic patterning of change; (ii) new processing skills of sensemaking and learning; and (iii) new tools to help people in the midst of on-going change to notice and interpret what is changing in their organisation. Organisations wishing to get on the front foot in change can develop these new change capabilities in leaders at all levels to aid them in navigating into the unknown. Let’s imagine that you’re setting out to travel somewhere you’ve never been before. Actually, no one has ever been there before. So, what do you do? Do you gather together all the information you have about your destination and plan a route to get there? Do you set off in the general direction, and try to work out the detail as you go along? Or perhaps you don’t even worry too much about where you’re going, you just set off and then take whatever turn looks most interesting. Organisational change is much like travelling somewhere new. Every organisational change journey is unique. No one else will start from where you are, no one else will end up where you do, and no one else will take exactly the same route. So any maps or directions that you get from experienced travellers (best practice organisations) or guides (consultants) will never be exactly right for your organisational journey. Nonetheless, let’s imagine that you are embarking on a journey of intentional change in your organisation, setting off on a journey to greater organisational effectiveness. (This is rather different than simply being swept along, perhaps unwillingly, by the tides of change.) You might choose to be either more planned, or more exploratory and opportunistic in your approach. Your choices may be guided by your assumptions about change ‘management’, from past experience of ‘what works’, and from your personality preferences. No single approach is intrinsically ‘better’ than the others, although some might be a better fit. Yet, whichever approach you take, once you set off into the unknown, you need to be prepared to find your way in ever-changing terrain.   The changing terrain of multi-change environments How many change projects are going on in your organisation right now? Still counting? Most of us work in multi-change environments these days. For many, it has become the norm, we don’t even question it. We simply accept that ‘business as usual’ means change, on multiple fronts. The trouble is that, in a multi-change environment, there are many unknown (and unknowable) interdependencies. As change initiatives collide and people respond, any map you develop of the terrain for change in your organisation is constantly changing. To make matters worse, the outside world is also in flux. The political, legal and economic landscape; the local and global competitive landscape; the social and demographic landscape; the technological landscape – wherever you look, they are all changing. So, any map you may have is also constantly changing.   Finding your way Finding your way requires new knowledge, new skills and new tools.   New knowledge: the Dynamic Patterning of change The first step to finding your way in change is to understand how organisational change really works. The view...

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Advancing your OD Practice – Part 2

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Part 2: A framework for advancing your OD practice   – Dr Sharon Varney & John Hovell   OD practice – an evolving field Part 1 in our series on Advancing your OD Practice explained how Organisational Development (OD) thinking and practice has evolved over the past 70 years to ensure it remains relevant and important in a VUCA world [1]. It pointed out that, in the past, OD was the preserve of specialists. Yet, with increasing organisational complexity, more and more people are being involved in change and transformation work as part of their day job. So, developing an OD mindset, skillset and toolset is fast becoming an essential for all managers and professionals. And smart businesses are leveraging their change-ability by developing OD capabilities across their organisations. Over the past 70 years, OD has embraced diagnostic, dialogic and dynamic approaches to organisational change and development. But the use of the ‘self’ as the primary instument, remains a core foundation in OD practice. We use this framework (pictured above) to underpin the Advancing your OD Practice programme that we run for The Henley Forum at Henley Business School.  We believe it is a useful framework to help demystify OD and to empower those involved in organisational change and development work to take the next steps in advancing their practice: it helps OD specialists to re-appraise their ‘go to’ approaches and to ensure their thinking and practice is keeping pace with evolving developments in the field and it provides an entry-point for those who are new to OD to calibrate the strengths and skills that they bring to OD work from other areas of work and life. In this article (Part 2 of 3), we begin by exploring the 3 Ds in our framework and then invite you to think about how to get the balance right.   Diagnostic OD Diagnostic OD began in a similar way to the scientific model and the project management approach. In other words, there was a linear process to start with: problem definition, then study the problem, determine options, select and implement the best option, and finally evaluate the effectiveness of your actions. This chronological approach has been effective for decades, especially when working on a specific change effort. For example, if an organisation requested support for its strategic plan, then OD consultants could offer strategic planning approaches that defined and studied the organisation, run workshops to determine strategic options, and finally support the implementation and measurement efforts. Within each of these steps, OD practitioners had opportunities to skilfully intervene with the human system in an effort to optimise organisational health and performance. Diagnostic OD was particularly effective at diagnosing “what was happening” inside an organisation.  OD pratitioners not only stepped through the Diagnostic OD process, they noticed how groups were interacting with each other during each step of the process, and they often verbalised the most notable patterns. Diagnostic OD proved to be a unique way to review and improve behaviours inside an organisation.   Dialogic OD Dialogic OD uses conversation and dialogue to initiate change and improvements within an organisation. Dialogic OD is known for viewing organisations as meaning-making or sense-making systems. As opposed to thinking that reality is a singular objective fact within an organisation, Dialogic OD practices work to...

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Advancing your OD practice – Part 1

Posted by on 2:13 pm in Blog | 0 comments

Part 1: A mindset, skillset and toolset for change   – Dr Sharon Varney   OD is for you! Saying that Organisational Development is just for OD specialists is a bit like saying computers are just for IT professionals. In the past, OD was the preserve of specialists. Yet, with increasing organisational complexity, the job of creating organisational change and effectiveness is simply too big and too complex for one team [1]. As a result, more and more people are being involved in change and transformation work as part of their day job. Managers and professionals with all kinds of job titles are working hard to introduce new, different, and potentially better ways of working. But, the problem is that few of them know how to go beyond the project plan to make the magical transition between A and B happen for teams and organisations. It’s not their fault. Few have had any training in this area. All too often, therefore, well-intentioned change efforts take an economic and emotional toll, yet fail to deliver the hoped-for benefits. So, developing an OD mindset, skillset and toolset is fast becoming an essential for all managers and professionals. And smart businesses are leveraging their change-ability by developing OD capabilities across their organisation; helping them to achieve sustained success in a changing world. A strong heritage and a rich knowledge base OD has a strong heritage and a rich knowledge base. It roots can be traced back to the late 1940s with the group dynamics work of social scientists at the National Training Laboratories in the US and the parallel group relations work at The Tavistock Insitute in the UK [2]. Taking an OD approach means involving people in creating change that affects them from the outset. Change programmes that seek to save time by not doing this up front often pay the price of an agonisingly long drag to try and get people on board later on. (If you ever see a project plan with ‘implementation’ at the end, you should be worried… very worried!) If you think that OD is all touchy-feely, think again. Taking an OD approach means working from data. Data may be hard or soft, big or small. The best OD uses multiple sources of data and listens to multiple voices. Taking an OD approach also means applying theory. OD draws from areas such as behavioural science, positive psychology, and complexity science to inform the tools we use. As leading OD expert, Mee-Yan Cheung-Judge [3], frequently puts it; OD is a ‘magpie’ discipline. Practitioners continue learning and building a knowledge base that they can call on to help build and sustain effective organisations in a changing world. Despite its long history, OD has seen something of a renaissance in the UK over the past 15 years [2]. Under constant pressure to adapt and reinvent themselves, more and more organisations are creating and developing specialist OD teams. The smart ones are also developing a network of OD-savvy people across their organisations. This helps them to power up their OD work through partnership working, to adapt and flex to changing conditions, and to extend the reach of their OD work. An evolving field of knowledgeable OD practice OD thinking and practice has evolved over the past 70 years. OD has embraced diagnostic, dialogic and...

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Why line managers need change expertise

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Why line managers need change expertise

by Sharon Varney and Sue Ells   Line managers are the most critical people in any change effort. Yes, we repeat, THE MOST CRITICAL. Success or failure often depends on the energy and engagement of line mangers. But they’re often just left to get on with it, with a sink or swim attitude. We want to change that. Change is too important to be left to chance. Change that doesn’t land can incur all the economic and emotional costs, without delivering any of the benefits. It can even make things worse. We believe that it’s time to get much smarter about change. To help line managers understand what they need to do, even when they don’t have a formal change role, and to equip them with the knowledge and the tools to do it. Read on to discover why line managers play such a vital role in change, the challenges they face, and to get some practical change tips.   Being in the middle – a vital role and a tough job. Why are line managers so critical in change? Because line managers are right in the middle. They are the people who help to translate change plans into everyday practices. They are the ones who can integrate innovative improvement ideas into normal ways of working. Without the active support of line managers, the best laid change plans will remain just that. Being in the middle helps line managers to connect people and ideas up and down organisations. And, importantly, they can choose to work with their peers – or not –  across organisations. Their position helps them to translate, role model, support, integrate, coach, connect and so on. But it’s a big ask.   Juggling change AND the day job at the same time? Sound familiar? How many managers get the option to do either the day job or the change job? Sadly not many. In fact, most organisations will expect their managers to do both at the same time. Plus they’ll expect all the usual targets and deadlines to be hit as well.  I can hear managers screaming as they read this, but actually, there are some really good things about this. Number 1 advantage is that it keeps the people (i.e. the managers) who know the people (i.e. their teams) close to the change and in control. Managers play many important roles in change. But it’s not easy. It can be challenging just to clarify the various roles they need to play. They may need to develop new skills and to reinvent themselves at the same time. So it’s not surprising that managers often feel squeezed, stretched and emotionally exhausted by change.   Helping line managers to develop change expertise. The key to getting it right, keeping your sanity, and progressing your career is to be smart about what you do and how you do it as a manager. It’s about how you prioritise and lead and involve others all around you. But, as a recent Henley Forum research project discovered, it’s also about developing yourself and your own change skills so you can develop a voice that is heard. The research revealed that managers whose teams had high productive energy scores in change took time for self-reflection, focused on reinventing themselves and their environment. Whilst...

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From hero leaders to engaging leadership

Posted by on 5:43 pm in Blog | 0 comments

  A tough job that needs both women and men If you’re the kind of person who wakes up in the morning feeling like a heroic leader, ready to jump into their super(wo)man suit and save the world, then this article probably isn’t for you. But it should be. Because the working world is becoming more volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA), and no hero can do it alone any more. Organisations are facing unknown monsters and are embarking on great quests with unknowable ends. With so much going on, the job of leadership is simply too tough for individual heroes. Instead we need a more multi-facetted view of leadership in a VUCA world. We need leadership that goes up and down and across organisations, leadership that spans and connects organisations. In a changing world, we need leaders across organisations who can tune into what’s going on, who notice and share what they notice, who can connect with others to make sense, and who can respond in different ways. In a changing world, we need leaders who bring different perspectives and who think differently. While social diversity doesn’t necessarily mean thought diversity, it’s probably a pretty good place to start. Engaging leadership means more leadership, and more diverse leaders. It’s a tough job. And it’s one that needs both women and men. 8th March is International Women’s Day and the rallying cry for 2015 is #MakeItHappen. The question I’m asking is; how do we make an engaging leadership culture happen? A culture where both women and men can flourish as leaders? To develop engaging leadership in organisations, we need more people who see themselves as leaders, who recognise that the qualities they bring that are so valuable in a VUCA world. And we need more people who recognise those leadership qualities in others. To achieve that, here’s what we need to do: ditch the old stereotypes of heroic leaders be far more ambitious about gender diversity in leadership. Ditch the old stereotypes The old might and fight stereotypes of heroic leaders and their younger cousin, the ‘rockstar CEO’, are out of step with the leadership required in a VUCA world. And because these stereotypes tend to value a small number of more typically masculine qualities, it makes it easier for men to see themselves as leaders and for us all to recognise men as leaders. Be far more ambitious about gender diversity in leadership The good news is that, in the UK there has been measurable progress in the number of women on FTSE 100 boards since 2011. In October 2014 it reached 22.8% and there were no longer any all male FTSE 100 boards. But the ambitions for women on FTSE 100 boards (a target of 25% in the 2011 Davis Report) keep women firmly in a minority in senior leadership positions. Being in a minority often means assimilating, rather than including difference, so we can lose the different perspectives and thinking that we need in a VUCA world. [For more on this, check out my previous post on the complexity science case for more women on Boards). #MakeItHappen  If, like me, you wake up in the morning wanting to make a difference rather than being a hero, then join me in a conversation about engaging leadership. Let’s...

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Adaptive and responsive action. What’s the difference?

Posted by on 12:53 pm in Blog | 0 comments

Normally at this time of year, I’d be reaching for the winter woollies – cardigans, jumpers, coats and scarves. But not this year. Not yet, anyway. When I went out earlier this week, I instinctively put another layer on and grabbed a scarf to keep out the expected Autumn chill. Yet within 5 minutes, the scarf was off, followed a few minutes later by the cardigan. Unusually there was wall to wall sunshine and, by UK standards, it was like summer! By removing the layers I didn’t need, I was able to adapt to the weather conditions. (Having worked in Chicago, where Fall temperatures can fluctuate wildly, I’d learned the value of layers). Being able to take adaptive action is useful, sometimes imperative, when you’re confronted by unexpected or changing conditions. Faced with unexpectedly good weather, all I could do was to (happily) adapt to the conditions I found. Adaptability is highly prized in many organisations today. Leaders and organisations are encouraged to become more agile and adaptable to changing conditions. Adapt or die, is a common mantra in a working world that seems evermore volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA). Adaptability, once learned, can be pretty automatic. I didn’t have to think much about adding or removing extra layers. That’s useful, because there was nothing I could have done to influence the weather conditions that day. But, in organisations, becoming really good at adapting to prevailing conditions is not necessarily the most effective strategy for longer-term success. Especially when adapting becomes the automatic ‘go to’ solution. That’s because a strategy of agility that is overplayed and becomes dominant means that an organisation, team or individual can get stuck on a sub-optimal peak of performance.   From a complexity perspective, this comes from Stuart Kauffman’s idea of Rugged Fitness Landscapes, where adaptation may mean becoming stuck on a sub-optimal peak of fitness.     Responsive action is different. In organisations, what everyone is saying and doing as they interact in their everyday work creates conditions that affect what people feel they can and cannot say and do. We often refer to these conditions as the culture or climate in an organisation or team. Example: The owner of a precision manufacturing company in Singapore, proudly told me how a project director had scrapped a large consignment of pipework that the customer was happy to accept – at a significant cost to the company, and a delay to the project – because he was concerned about its quality. The conditions (culture) of the company, made that action acceptable, whereas in many others, it would more likely have meant career suicide for that project director. Taking responsive action means looking into the patterning of those prevailing conditions in organisations more deeply. It means actively searching for new data about what’s changing (and that’s likely to be ‘small data’), and making the most of weak signals. It means interrogating that data to highlight potential issues and opportunities in what’s emerging. And it means choosing your responses into those patterns, based on that systematic learning about what’s changing. In a changing world, habitual responses (even agile ones) can inadvertently make emerging issues more problematic. We already know that prizing profit above all, can create climates where ethics, safety, or customer needs may get overlooked,...

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Beware the mad dash for change!

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  The morning after the Scottish referendum on independence and there seems to be a mad dash for constitutional change in the UK. That change has been called for is not in question. Some want greater self-determination. Some want a new system for social justice. Some want to grab greater personal and political power. Some want healing and unity. That change is underway is not in question. The seeds of change have already been sown in the multitude of public and private debates and deliberations around Scottish independence. Yes or No – simply asking the question about independence began the process of change. And, as many OD people well-know, the questions we ask often focus change in a particular direction. That change in one place affects another is not in question. The question of change for Scotland acts like a ripple on a pond, affecting the wider system of the UK (and beyond) and the people within it. The question of constitutional change in Scotland has already raised the possibility of change for England and prompted people to ask questions about greater powers for cities and regions. From a complex social systems perspective, you cannot change the constitution in one part of a system without affecting other interrelated parts. So, because Scotland is part of a complex social, economic and political system, change is not just under way for Scotland, it is inevitably under way for the wider system. What will actually change IS in question. The trouble with change in complex social systems is that it is impossible to know in advance how a system will actually change. And it is impossible to know in advance what unintended consequences may emerge in the short and the long term. However, we do know that unintended consequences are highly likely. That’s due to the sheer number of people involved, and their complex patterns of communicative interaction with one another. And we do know that constitutional change will enable and constrain some of those patterns of interaction, although we do not know what will emerge from changing the rules of engagement. So, from a complex social systems perspective, some really important questions are: How can we make space to learn what change we are creating while we are in the midst of creating that change? How can we recognise what patterns are emerging and notice unintended consequences – both issues and opportunities – much sooner? How can we take responsive action in these live processes of change? That change is afoot is not in question. However the dynamic patterning of that change – and how political, business and social leaders play into the emerging patterns, is very much in question. The big worry is whether those with power and influence within the process will even pause in their relentless charge for constitutional change, to make sense of what they are creating....

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The balloon under the stairs – Pt 2

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To my surprise, I’ve realised that the red party balloon under the stairs is now two years old. A bit more actually – it’s 751 days old today. That seems very old for a party balloon. It was blown up for a party during the London 2012 Olympics, and it’s still inflated. This is an unexpected and unintended consequence of a series of small, inconsequential decisions. And that’s often how we get what we get in organisations in terms of patterns of behaviour that we might label as ‘culture’. But once we have a pattern, it has an effect, and it can be hard to change. Here’s why. Take the balloon story. The red balloon is under mystairs by accident, rather than design. But because it IS there, it has an effect. Actually, it probably has several effects. When I open the cupboard and see it, I’m often surprised – I’d forgotten it was there; I’m intrigued – I’m amazed it’s still there; and, oddly, I feel somewhat pleased that it’s still there. It’s probably affected behaviour too, because I haven’t used the green bucket it’s been sat in, and nor, I suspect has anyone else in my household. So, what does this mean for culture change? Your organisation probably has its own metaphorical balloons hidden under the stairs. They may be values shared (e.g. we value expertise), stories told (e.g. we punch above our weight), or ways of doing things that are perpetuated over time (e.g. we talk about action, rather than take action). They may have arisen accidentally; an unintended consequence of a series of small actions taken some while ago, and people’s responses to those actions. You probably don’t even notice the balloons after a while. But, although invisible, they may stimulate a pattern of behaviour, where people just don’t use the green bucket, because there’s a red balloon in it. But after a while no one remembers why there’s a red balloon in it, or whether it’s important to keep. These metaphorical balloons can mean that organisations get stuck repeating the same patterns, without necessarily realising why. For example, ‘we value expertise’ can turn into rigid demarcations of experts which get in the way of organisational agility. Stories of ‘punching above our weight’ can lead to internal competition, or organisations over-extending. Talking about action can become the action, without anyone realising the irony. It’s very easy for culture change to become stuck. And sometimes it can be hard to see your own balloons under the stairs. The story of the balloon under the stairs Click here for the original story of the balloon under the stairs. Find out why it’s there and why that might not be surprising in a complex world. Balloon update: Originally there were three balloons under my stairs. The blue one lasted a few months, the white one was still going strong last year, but I’m sorry to report, it has now deflated, but the red one is still going. I’ll keep you posted…  ...

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Small data, the new BIG thing!

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  An edited version of this article was originally published in theHRDIRECTOR in June 2014 The buzz is about Big Data, but does that mean ‘Small Data’ is brushed under the carpet? Big Data is a fashionable phrase describing the vast amounts of digital information now available – from stratospheric growth in online traffic and reductions in storage costs – and the clever analytics used to find patterns in that data. But, with Big Data grabbing so many headlines, what is ‘small data’ and why is it so important? Far from being trivial, small data on a human scale can herald early warning signs of change in organisations. That’s why it is so important for HR Directors and other business leaders to ensure it is not simply brushed under the carpet. ‘Small data’ refers to the kind of information that we can all pick up, every day, in the normal course of our work. It might take the form of an unexpected comment which suddenly galvanises people into action; a growing disconnect between two groups; a new story that starts circulating virally; or a dip in energy within a team. As the name suggests, small data may be indistinct, so it can be tricky to define and articulate, even when we sense it. What makes it still harder to grasp is that small data is distributed around organisations. We each hold a piece of the puzzle, yet no-one can stand aside from the constant creation and flow of data in organisations to see the whole picture. Nevertheless, small data is human scale data, often qualitative, that we can all notice if we know what to look for. Small data, on a human scale, can herald early warning signs of change in organisations.  And small data can be powerful in challenging what we think we know. You only need to notice one black swan in order to prove that swans can be black. Even more importantly, it is the best data we have about how an organisation is changing, until after the fact. The power of small data is that it can give us advance warning of potential problems or completely new opportunities. It can signal important twists and turns in change, heralding the kind of surprises and unintended consequences that you just cannot plan for. And, the earlier that leaders and managers become aware of these signals, the sooner they can choose how to respond. When the patterns of change become really obvious, what we have is hindsight, and it can be too late to do anything about it. So, what we need is foresight – the ability to anticipate and make sense of dynamic patterns as they emerge in the here and now. These issues are becoming more acute since many of us now work in multi-change environments. In HR, for example, we might simultaneously be working on a big re-organisation, introducing new staff engagement initiatives, and be upgrading our HR systems. These changes can impact on one another in ways that cannot be predicted. Add to that Marketing’s new product launch, IT’s Bring-Your-Own-Device rollout, and Finance’s introduction of new payment authority levels, and there’s every chance that a perfect (change) storm could be brewing without our knowledge. But, the good news is there may be vital clues...

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