John Hagel has a great piece on The Paradox of Preparing for Change:
So, how can we best prepare for change? My advice based on the experience that I have accumulated over the years: decide what isn’t going to change, especially in three key domains: principles, purpose and people.
He goes into detail with thinking about each of these elements, but the essence is that people leading change need to be clear about what is and what is not changing for the organization. Hagel is focusing on the ongoing stability end of things, and I really like how he has articulated this here.
I've long thought that "change" initiatives (or things that change that aren't consider Big Change initiatives) don't do enough thinking about what is - and is not - changing with the initiative. Theory of Constraints asks that people articulate the (often hidden) policies behind how work happens in an organization - usually with the goal of checking whether those policies are still necessary. Kanban has an interesting perspective in that it tries to make a minimally invasive up-front change, but then also have people agree to incremental change as they learn new things about the organization.
I can't help but think about the quip from Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr, "The more things change, the more they stay the same." Usually this is said in a cynical tone. But in one sense, changes in a living organization will continue happening while the core of the organization - its values and purpose - will remain solid. This thinking is arguing to make those things explicit.
[Photo: "Change" by Alex Calderon]