When it comes to planned change, transactions do not, can not, in and of themselves,  yield transformation.  Yet, this seems to be the default of too much IT and HR change management in organizations – that change has occurred enough times, a formula of transactions to manage change is now readily applicable.  This is not to say that transforming an organization does not involve transaction, it does.  It just doesn’t work the other way around, not really.

Seth Godin and Krista Tippet of On Being, revealed a great insight in an interview:

MR. GODIN: Yeah. People impart a lot into the notion of evolution — some of which wasn’t Darwin’s work itself. But what is important here is not only do times change, but those times change, not just our stories about ourselves and our expectations, but they actually are changing our brain. So you know, when the Industrial Revolution came, there were 20 years when basically everyone in Manchester, England, was an alcoholic. Instead of having like coffee carts, they had gin carts that went up and down the streets. Because it was so hard to shift from being a farmer to sitting in a dark room for 12 hours every day doing what you were told. But we evolved, we culturally evolved to be able to handle a New World Order. And so when we talk about evolution as a metaphorical thing where we have memetics and ideas laid on top of this idea of survival of the species and things changing over time, what fascinates me about it is that this bottom-up change in the world is everywhere all the time. So much more common than change that gets put down on us by a dictator or by someone who’s putatively in charge.


MR. GODIN: And yet we ignore this bottom-up thing when in fact it’s the thing we are most likely to be able to touch and change.

MS. TIPPETT: Also I think what you’re pointing at in a lot of your work is that because of the way the world has changed subjectively, because we’re living in a post-geography world. That’s a phrase you use. Because we have what you call a connection economy, we — technology is actually empowering that bottom-up change, right, and kind of dismantling the hierarchical overbearing leader model that a lot of us actually still grew up with.

MR. GODIN: And at the same time that is what’s empowering technology. So they’re both feeding on each other. The Internet wasn’t built by 30 people who are working for a boss. It was built by 300,000 people, many of whom have never met each other. And that this protocol and that technology work together even without a central organizing force. And that’s happening to every industry. And it’s happening even to the way our communities organize and the spiritual organizations that we get involved in.

What this reveals is that creating sustained change requires the involvement of an organization as a whole, starting with leadership.  A gate-keeper approach to change cannot work because an organization does not transform by the will and direction of leadership (or HR on its behalf for that matter), but the empowerment of the individuals of the organization to take it in a new direction.  Yet, so long as leaders prefer to command and control, this cannot occur.  A new ERP system may be rammed into the organization, but thereby creating a level of ignorance, even resentment, rather than empowerment.  HR may address employee engagement with various communications transactions but that will likely get scoffed at.

No, transformation comes through evolving interactions, addressing emotion and developing rapport, even relationships 😱, across the organization.  As leaders, are you willing to enter these realms?