“70% of all corporate change initiatives fail” (Cracking the Code of Change, Harvard Business Review). In times of substantial change, like the age we are in, managerial work increasingly becomes a leadership task. John P. Kotter believes that motivation and inspiration are key for successful changes.
So in riding this wave of change, managers are required to provide dual responsibility: as managers (ensuring effective operations of the system) and as leaders (renewing the system to ensure long-term effectiveness).
It is a matter of time and priorities that determine how much of the day managers can realistically dedicate to each of these two responsibilities. If operational priorities take the lion’s share of managers’ time, change initiatives will inevitably suffer and risk adding to the above-mentioned 70%.
Leading changes is a precision discipline and Kotter delivers a very practical eight steps change process, which – if consistently followed – can be significant in succeeding. Unfortunately, classical methods to carry on these steps are very time consuming due to their preparation, pre-alignment, and execution requirements.
Is there a better way to follow these eight steps, while speeding up their execution, and without compromising their quality?
The prerequisites for succeeding in this mission are facilitated thinking, communication, and problem-solving techniques with the ideal combination of emotions, people-orientation, fun, focus, commitment-creation, and measurable results.
Based on recent experiences, I want to share how using LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® as central tool can help accelerate the overall change process.
The key elements of the LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® process are very practical, like building models, sharing thoughts, and collectively learning; and count on the belief that people naturally want to contribute, be part of something bigger, and take ownership.
The facilitator builds a safe environment where each one of the participants has time to build models of how their business operates and has a voice to share their perceptions, while focusing on a common strategic objective. Allowing each member to actively participate and speak out, the process generates in a natural manner a more comprehensive and sustainable picture.
To support the description below, I refer to Kotter’s checklist for leading change, while briefly expanding on how to apply the LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® methodology to step 1 – Establishing a sense of urgency – and demonstrating the acceleration we can expect from its use.
Imagine bringing together all the people you want to mobilize in a workshop – the stakeholders of the change. It is good practice to also invite one of your good customers and one of your important suppliers.
Imagine instructing each of them to build with LEGO bricks individual models representing how your company operates today. During different rounds, the models can have metaphors added for today’s products, market position, service levels, perceived customer views of the company (a comparison with the artifact built by the participating customer in the workshop will be intriguing), perceived supplier views of the company (an eye opener when compared with your supplier’s perception), and so on.
While sharing their personal thoughts and meanings of the LEGO models, each stakeholder will experience different views on every subject, resulting in a broader understanding of the status quo. At the same time, considering the customer’s and supplier’s views might already unearth critical gaps between stakeholders’ perceptions.
Imagine now instructing each of the participants to modify the previously constructed models to represent why the company will have the worst position in the market in three years’ time compared to competitors. Here too, during different rounds, the modifications can be applied on the metaphors and the topics used above.
Sharing the meaning of the models’ modifications discovers threats and hazards facing your company and everybody’s workplace. The objective of this part of the workshop is to let people see, feel, and articulate that what your company is doing today will not be needed in the future. At this point, discussions help determine whether the picture is complete, or if there is a need to add other critical models e.g. new disruptive technologies.
As a consequence of the discussion and other exercises driven by the facilitator, the participants understand that, thankfully, the bad situation is not yet a reality. We can escape it by accepting that we must be constantly vigilant and that past successes tell us nothing about the future.
At the same time, they see opportunities appear on the horizon in the form of a tangible model; figures-proven and with unique identifiers. Being in such a session I can tell you how one really feels the sense of urgency rising in the speech of the participants sharing their thoughts and interpretations: now everybody agrees that we must do something and we have to start now!
As participants state their commitment in front of colleagues, managers, and peers, they confirm to apply a sense of urgency and to actively drive change. This is the ultimate outcome of the workshop and can be achieved within a working day.
Now it is the turn of the change agent to grab momentum and leverage the newly created platform to start the change process.
Why is LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® exceptionally suited to convey sense of urgency?
The basic concept leverages everybody’s ability to imagine, describe, and understand a specific situation. It counts on the fact that by actively using our hands while learning, we all activate higher levels of insight, inspiration, and imagination. So, the “answer is in the system”.
Would we trust these individuals to be more successful than others in implementing changes when faced with the unexpected?
Would you like to test the LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® methodology in a change context?
I’m happy to work out a specific suggestion to target your specific situation. My email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Interested in other applications of the LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® methodology? Check out my previous articles.