10 challenges of change

In “The Dance of Change: The Challenges to Sustaining Momentum in Learning Organizations,” Peter Senge and his colleagues identify 10 challenges of change. Grouped into three categories — challenges of initiating change, challenges of sustaining momentum, and challenges of systemwide redesign and rethinking — these 10 items amount to what the authors call “the conditions of the environment that regulate growth.”

Challenges of Initiating Change

“We don’t have time for this stuff!” People who are involved in a pilot group to initiate a change effort need enough control over their schedules to give their work the time that it needs.

“We have no help!” Members of a pilot group need enough support, coaching, and resources to be able to learn and to do their work effectively.

“This stuff isn’t relevant.” There need to be people who can make the case for change — who can connect the development of new skills to the real work of the business.

“They’re not walking the talk!” A critical test for any change effort: the correlation between espoused values and actual behavior.

Challenges of Sustaining Momentum

“This stuff is . . .” Personal fear and anxiety — concerns about vulnerability and inadequacy — lead members of a pilot group to question a change effort.

“This stuff isn’t working!” Change efforts run into measurement problems: Early results don’t meet expectations, or traditional metrics don’t calibrate to a pilot group’s efforts.

“They’re acting like a cult!” A pilot group falls prey to arrogance, dividing the company into “believers” and “nonbelievers.”

Challenges of Systemwide Redesign and Rethinking

“They . . . never let us do this stuff.” The pilot group wants more autonomy; “the powers that be” don’t want to lose control.

“We keep reinventing the wheel.” Instead of building on previous successes, each group finds that it has to start from scratch.

“Where are we going?” The larger strategy and purpose of a change effort may be obscured by day-to-day activity. Big question: Can the organization achieve a new definition of success?

– ALAN M. WEBBER

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