The Dynamics of Generative Change - Checklists

“The Dynamics of Generative Change” is a book written by Gervase R. Bushe and describes the Generative Change model.

Below are some excerpts of the book that describe the steps and checklists for every step.

Generative Change offers an alternative to the dominant paradigm of Planned change (“The Dynamics of Planned Change”, Lippitt, Watson and Westly, 1958) which has the following familiar steps:

  1. Define the problem
  2. Collect and analyse data
  3. Create a vision
  4. Plan implementation
  5. Create Action Teams
  6. Monitor and Evaluate

Common problems with the planned change model are:

  • Depending on one person, or a few people, to come up with the answer to a complex, multi-faceted and fluid problems.
  • Experts who are not involved in day to day operations designing changes that don’t work at the front lines, or create new problems.
  • Hiring expensive consulting firms to propose an organizational redesign, but only able to implement a portion of it, resulting in more problems than it solved.
  • Hoping that representatives of various stakeholders to help design changes will reduce resistance to change, but it doesn’t.
  • By the time all the data is collected and analyzed, recommendations and decisions are made, the situation has changed.
  • How everything, from how a problem is defined, to which recommendations are discussed, is as much as a political process as a rational one.
  • Getting front line people engaged and energized in proposing solutions only to create cynicism and demotivation from the apparent lack of follow-through.
  • The familiar experience that the only way to really transform an organization is to close it down and start over again, either through re-hiring selectively, or starting fresh someplace else.

The Generative Change model offers an alternative:

  1. Identify the Adaptive Challenge
  2. Reframe into a Possibility Focused Purpose Statement (Generative Image)
  3. Engage stakeholders in Generative conversations
  4. Stimulate Self-Organized innovations (“probes”)
  5. Learn from Success and Failures
  6. Scale up and embed successful probes

It is based on Dialogic Organization Development, a school of organization develop based on social constructionism and complexity thinking (e.g. Snowden’s work). There is much more to say about Dialogic Organization Development, but this is out of scope for this article.

1. Identify the Adaptive Challenge

  • Have you got the sponsorship you will need to work on that adaptive challenge? If not, how will you work up and out to get it?
  • If the leader or group is not familiar with generative change, are they ready to let go of their usual ways of doing things?
  • Are they prepared to let go of control and work with a more emergent for of change?
  • Is it clear enough what adaptive challenge leaders are ready to put time and effort into?

2. Reframe into a Possibility Focused Purpose Statement

  • Leaders are ready to try a generative change approach.
  • You have identified the stakeholders who will need to change to manage the adaptive challenge.
  • You have identified one or more polarities that are part of the organization’s current stuckness.
  • You are working with a group of people who have a good idea of what those stakeholders actually care about.
  • Sponsors are clear what they really care about.
  • The people you will need to sponsor the generative change process are involved in reframing the adaptive challenge.
  • You can reframe the adaptive challenge into something short and sweet that can be used to invite stakeholders into new conversations.

3. Engage Stakeholders in Generative Conversations

  • You have a clear purpose people care about, and have identified what is in bounds and what is out of bounds.
  • You have the right space for people to be able to move around, as needed.
  • The key sponsor(s) will be there at the beginning to explain the purpose and process and answer questions, and there at the end to hear and bless the probes. If they can be there for the entire event, even better.
  • Your design will ensure that people know why they are here, can say what they think, and will get whatever information they need to come up with practical ideas.
  • You have provided just the right amount of structure so people have a sense of the beginning, middle and end of the event, and can step into productive conversations they want to be having.
  • You create opportunities for the large group to check in on what is happening without long, laborious “report outs”
  • Your design helps people who don’t know each other very well uncover who has similar interests, motivations, and ideas and lets them team up to create a probe.
  • There is some way of supporting/amplifying people’s commitment to acting on their ideas (!).

4. Launch self-initiated probes as you learn and go

  • What do we need to ensure people believe they can act differently when they go back to work after the event?
  • Should we do any screening of proposals before people act on them? If so, what screening criteria should we use and how will we do that rapidly and in a way that increases energy and momentum rather than turning people off?
  • What kind of commitment amplifying process will we use at the end of the event?
  • How will we create the time and space for people with busy lives and jobs to take on substantial change initiatives that haven’t been defined or budgeted for?
  • What resources and infrastructure are people and groups who are pursuing probes likely to need? How will they get these resources?
  • How do we ensure sponsors know what is happening in a timely way?
  • How can we ensure that barriers and impediments to good ideas are recognized and dealt with?
  • How will we make decisions about what changes to support and resource (or not) and how will we describe this decision-making process and communicate those decisions?
  • How will we spread great new ideas out the larger organization in a way that will tap into natural networks of allies and supporters, and bring those people into greater engagement during the piloting process?
  • How do we decide that a probe has failed and how will we bring it to an end in a way that sustains people’s willingness to propose future probes?

5. Scale up and embed successful probes

  • Pay particular attention to probes that aligned with the big picture, the longer-term desired changes the organization needs.
  • Find ways to work with the willing and build on small wins.
  • Ensure there is a process for leaders to be talking about structures and processes needed to sustain new practices as they emerge.
  • Organize presentations from teams that have developed probes so they can share their results with relevant stakeholders and identify lessons learned.
  • Ensure there are opportunities for the leadership team to review if and how the current strategy and culture fits with the newly discovered opportunities.
  • Identify helping and hindering narratives and work at creating new narratives that support the desired change.
  • Find opportunities to engage non-engaged stakeholders by identifying and promoting ways in which their wants and concerns can be addressed by the changes, and in ways in which they can create probes aligned with both.