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Change Continuum Loop

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Part One : Change Leadership Alignment

The old axiom, “The Only Constant is Change,” has never been truer than in work and workplace design

When an organization has chosen the development of a new workplace strategy as a viable (or necessary) option for the future, the change process is well underway. By the time design begins, change has inevitably already entered the conversations of the people who will be most affected. Change is emotional and is often wrought with uncertainty and ambiguity; most importantly, change creates unique reactions and responses in everyone within each team.

In his book “The Fifth Discipline,” Peter Senge talks about the journey from where we are today to achieving a shared vision – a process called “creative tension.” This is not the negative tension that we all sometimes experience. Rather it is the journey of innovation, creativity, and enjoyment, and in the end, a sense of accomplishment for all involved.

Since an organizational change effort aims to create strong adoption with the people delivering results, it is necessary to implement change management in parallel with the design of new work and workplaces. To build a solid and impactful change management process, we must first understand the patterns and influences of change on individuals and within teams at work. With this understanding, we can introduce tools and engagements at the right place and time to create a positive and valuable change transition.

PART 1 - ENDINGS

Numerous business influences create change. Only through endings can the new ways of work become incorporated and lead to positive business results. ENDINGS involve understanding why, envisioning the future state, and engaging with the ambiguity of the currently unknown future conditions. ENDINGS require an acceptance of the brutal facts and an admission of the possible futures. Endings are hard.

PART 2 - CREATIVE TENSION

Our ability to change is a requirement of living. We are all uniquely wired to adapt to the conditions of change in our lives. Often changes at work are minor and day-to-day, such as a new set of responsibilities, a new team member, or a new chair. Occasionally the work changes are more profound, such as a new job entirely, a new leadership team, or an entirely new work environment. CREATIVE TENSION is the active setting that results within a team of people of any size that incorporate the change conditions into their work lives.

The first stage in CREATIVE TENSION is the downward reactions that immediately follow the ENDINGS stage. Even the most positive adapters to change will experience a degree of loss resulting from the change. The second stage is wrought by the volatile and dynamic intermixing of individual and group reactions to the change. This stage is identified by the inconsistency of responses within and between people. CREATIVE TENSION is often trackable from hour to hour as new change conditions are introduced. The third stage results in acceptance, seen by an increased belief that the change will not harm or that the inevitable is unstoppable. The CREATIVE TENSION phase of change often cycles between these stages as the conditions of the change event are revealed and reinterpreted.

Tree placed in an empty room.

 PART 3 - NEW BEGINNINGS

Once the acceptance levels have reached diminished chaos, there begins a process of NEW BEGINNINGS. This phase is traditionally recognized when the group “ gets to work.” When new results become measurable and observable, and the change goals have begun to be incorporated into the work, the past conditions become past tense in the group's story. Memories are long, and the success of the change can be highly susceptible to new perceptions and judgments. Still, the NEW BEGINNINGS phase is marked by productivity that is, at minimum, different than in the past and, at maximum, excitement toward the near future.

WHY CHANGE MANAGEMENT EXISTS

In today’s ever-changing workplace design work, it is advantageous for businesses to create a workplace strategy to achieve tomorrow’s complex business results. Workplace strategy uses tools and engagements with employees to develop their future work process and culture. By envisioning the future of the work process and cultural behaviors, we can create change that becomes highly efficient and effective. By engaging with employees throughout the transition management process, you can positively affect people in their experiences at work within these new workplaces.

Brady Mick, AIA, MCRw, Prosci
Director of Workplace Strategy

Brady Mick is an Architect, Design Strategist and Thought Leader Serving as EUA's Director of Workplace Strategy