What makes change tricky isn’t the change, it’s the people. Not because people are tricky, but because people can’t be changed – they can only change. Confused yet? Ok, here we go…
The image above is a simplified rendering of Wilber’s “Four Quadrants” map. We love it because it illustrates, quite simply, where attention needs to be when facilitating change in organisations.
The top half of the map (Q1, Q2) speaks to things that are in the domain of the personal and the bottom half (Q3, Q4) speaks to things in the domain of the collective, i.e. the team or organisational level.
The right side of the map (Q2, Q4) speaks to things that are external, that we can observe and the left side (Q1, Q3) speaks to things that are internal and not directly observable.
What happens during times of change is that organisations tend to want to change things that are on the right side – a new organisational structure or new workplace competencies, preferably as fast as possible. And after some time, people rub their eyes and scratch their heads as the envisaged change has not been taken up by those who need to live the change.
What they are overlooking is that change starts with the individuals who make up the collective. The change we want to see outside has to start inside, with mindset, values and beliefs which individuals have to change before sustainably embarking on practicing the new behaviours in the workplace.
And culture, stories, and symbols are a great way to collectively shift what is believed about how things are done here and what is possible and desirable. There is a reason that the saying “culture eats strategy for breakfast“ is a truism: it has been proven so many times, in the private sector, in the public sector, in the voluntary sector, in the old industries and in new startups. That’s why merger fail – two different cultures don’t mesh, why new IT systems don’t deliver – people don’t use them, the list goes on, why the transition from what we were to what we want to be doesn’t happen.
If you want to change systems (Q4), you need to address culture (Q3). To shift culture, you need to change individual behaviours (Q2). To change behaviour, you need to explore and engage individuals around how they experience and interpret the world (Q1): through their values and beliefs, hopes and fears, all informed by their experience of the past.
In a nutshell: change is tricky when you don’t start with people, for it is their mindsets, and only then their behaviour, that have to evolve in order to make the change happen.
Change is an inside game, both on the individual and on the collective level. Start with the internal if you want to change the external. Get in touch with us to plan a successful change initiative.