Change involves transformation. The end of something and the beginning of another - in hopefully a better form. Transformational change invokes the circle of life - a season for death and a season for rebirth. A season for shedding and a season for regeneration. Accomplishing this level of change on a systemic level is to have transformation across functions, departments, and levels in a hierarchical organization.
Let’s pause to take this all in for a moment. Think of the size of your team, function and company/organization. Think of the number of levels.
Consider the personas, personalities, dispositions, mindsets, worldviews, beliefs, and values.
Consider how the range of the above co-exist in the same context. They might collide, crash, and collapse. With ripples that might cascade, splash or undulate in a myriad of directions.
Containing, shaping, and arranging all of this is the work of systemic change.
It’s a Herculean task that reminds of the eternal efforts between a boulder and Sisyphus. Like Sisyphus, the work is exhausting, exacting, and endless.
Nine Elements of Systemic Change
Systemic change has a range of sites upon which it occurs - a person, condition, structure, belief, and culture. I also see it as consisting of at least nine elements:
To view systemic change through a constellation of these nine elements is to avail yourself of:
- Elements that can be organized
- Levers that can be pulled
- Moves to approach with inquiry
Size of the Systemic Change:
- Mild modification
Authenticity of the Systemic Change:
- Partial with some omissions
- Holistic and real
Shape of the Systemic Change:
- Structural changes that are rearrange the same hierarchy
- Structural changes that change personnel but retain mindsets and dispositions
- Structural changes that seem flat (horizontal leadership)
- Structural changes that form a pyramid (few at the top, many at the bottom)
- Structural changes that form a circle (Indigenous Elder circle)
Persona of the Systemic Change Drivers:
- Rigid, hierarchical, risk-averse
- Flexible, egalitarian, daring
- Strategic and focused
- Tactical and diffuse
Expertise/Discipline Guiding the Systemic Change:
- Economics and Profit Margins
- Social Science
- Education, Learning, Organizational Development
- Business Psychology
- Human Resource Management
Duration of the Systemic Change:
- Steady state, constant
Scope of the Systemic Change:
- Within functional boundaries
- Within organizational boundaries
- Among a team within an organization
- Among teams within an organization
- At individual contributor level
Pace of the Systemic Change:
- Slow and incremental
- N-shaped: starts slow, increases mildly and drops again
- H-shaped: starts slow, increases sharply, drops mildly, and drops again
- M-shaped: starts slow, increases mildly, drops again, repeat
Intensity of the Systemic Change:
- No heat: 🧊
- Low heat: 🔥
- Mild heat: 🔥🔥
- High heat: 🔥🔥🔥
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