Forming the Basis for Revolutionary Change in Organizations

Many of our traditional business system models have evolved out of the industrial age and are no longer relevant. As a result, we need to adjust paradigms towards a new way of thinking. We will refer to this new thought process as the “emerging mindset“.

Today’s businesses are in a constant state of flux, adjusting in ways that entail combinations of reacting to unplanned fires blended with strategic planning. The external economic atmosphere is changing so fast that often, internal environments are unable to keep up, making organizations complex and more vulnerable than ever. Our world has seen intense progression in technology as of late, pushing us into a mode of hyper-connectivity, creating new open global capital market economies and new business models, impacting internal and external environmental factors in organizations. As a result, many businesses that were in place five or even ten years ago have ceased to exist. Many organizational  cultures are in the midst of punctuated equilibrium we refer to as Revolutionary Change as they attempt to seek the right amount of stability. 

The emerging mindset will need to constantly scan what is happening on the outside, monitor the expectations of behavior complexity, maintain alignment of strategic direction and plan how to begin the momentum in ways that get everyone participating and excited about a new vision for the future. The new mindset will need to continue asking what can be done differently and whether anything is being missed. The consequences of not doing so have far reaching implications. 

Factors Involved in Revolutionary Change

Revolutionary change happens when something shakes an organization, presenting a clear need for a major overhaul, which will change the culture because the enterprise will never be the same again. Revolutionary and constant, accelerating change are not the same thing because accelerating change evolves. (Hence the term, evolutionary change). Revolutionary change is not linear or constant. It is chaos that disturbs the organization and leads to reshaping of its culture. Examples could include an unforeseen crisis, a merger or acquisition, new leadership comes in and changes business models and structure of organizations change, which may involve the process of forming a new vision and mission.

The emerging mindset would view revolutionary change as an opportunity for all people impacted by the change to provide input so they feel they are part of the process and are building a future together.  The way the change is led will set the tone inside and outside of organizations. When entities shift, it takes place in a context that surrounds human capital, which means the ways people respond in different environments are not predictable and how individuals interact individually and collectively will vary. It will be essential to observe social systems across many groups with varied norms. Radical change will introduce a broad array of issues that include managing resistance and emotions. The emerging mindset needs to keep in mind that employees have their own external factors they bring to work with them every day. Some of these issues could involve financial challenges, family conflict, supporting young children, caring for aging parents, striving to find the appropriate work life balance, and more.

Table 1 Systems affecting employee powerSystems affect employee power[i] because human capital has a broad array of needs and wants. (See table 1). Enterprises consist of one or many social systems with established rituals and decision making processes. The executive intellect will establish the climate for all of the relationships that go in, out and through the organization and feedback will come from it. That creates a framework and is an ecosystem by itself.

Revolutionary change presents opportunities to re-evaluate effectiveness and configuration within an organizations deep structure of each division as well as the human capital that adds the most value. The talented emerging mindset realizes this is the time to capitalize on that and build social bridges by understanding who are the connectors, mavens or salespeople.[ii]

The emerging mindset will determine how to respond through the constant tension across technology, operations and sales.

Strategies to prevent negative entropy will be a factor. How will the company entice, inspire and maintain talent to include a broader definition that is a blend of five areas that combine compensation, benefits, work-life balance, performance and recognition along with development and career potential?[iii] How these issues are addressed and presented to members in the enterprise will set the tone for employee morale, attitudes and momentum towards the vision. Communication must remain open, linking to organizational structure and culture while understanding that at the center is the emerging mindset, its capabilities and abilities. It will be important to pay attention to that context, not ignoring frustrations and encourage mentor, mentee relationships because organizational change is not a linear process. (p282)

Forces Interact to Impact Open Systems

The emerging mindset personality, how they are perceived, how they receive information, interact with others and communicate change will establish how those in the organization will be impacted and adjust. Revolutionary change begins with considering the system as a whole and examining each individual part. When something in an organization changes such as processes, policies, procedure or structure, a few parts will evolve and others will eventually be affected. It is imperative the emerging mindset know how to position and communicate revolutionary change. Planning for radical change requires mapping out thoughtful messaging by understanding how the past is affecting the present and what the future will look like. It creates a story and will help all in the organization have context for the vision.

Emerging mindsets will understand the inputs, outputs and feedback that will come by scanning the social and political landscape to deepen relationships by understanding what is important to employees in ways that are authentic, and lead with that. While rewards may be one component of revolutionary change, an article by Luthans and Stajkovic, demonstrates reinforcing behavior for results is more successful than pay for performance[iv].   The emerging mindset can leverage this information to take swift action, then develop and point workers in the direction of the vision. Empowering workers to make good business decisions will help them feel more creative and part of the solution. When this occurs the result is more involvement and increased commitment.  As employees go through change, leader behavior will be observed as well, so being centered and doing self-examination by paying attention to one’s own emotional intelligence and moral compass because they will play an important role.

The goal and vision must be clear, direction understood and messaging consistently repeated.  Announcements, communications and series of events should create a sense of urgency and be thoughtfully introduced with a tone of optimism that can get employees excited. Forming strong advisory coalitions for each division in an organization with subject matter experts will demonstrate a sense of order and that the work is already underway. If resources feel they have input towards the intended outcome and are part of the solution, buy-in could occur with minimal disruption. Response will also tend to be favorable if there is a way to celebrate, create rituals, establish norms and provide enterprise wide sensitivity or change management seminars facilitated by a 3rd party. Bringing people together from different areas creates open source opportunities where ideas merge and new knowledge is formed.

Governance, departments, groups and individuals have power. Systems interact with their atmosphere, but the process of organizational change originates and winds up in the hands of the external environment. A system’s ability to thrive and survive is dependent on it.

Next: The Emerging Mindset – Revolutionary Change

Do you have thoughts, questions or comments about this kind of change? Please leave a comment below and thanks for visiting my blog!

[i] Luthans, F., & Stajkovic, A. D. (May 01, 1999). Reinforce for Performance: The Need to Go beyond Pay and Even Rewards. The Academy of Management Executive (1993-2005), 13, 2, 49-57.

[ii] Gladwell, M. (2000). The tipping point: How little things can make a big difference. Boston: Little, Brown.

[iii] Forrester, R. (August 01, 2000). Empowerment: Rejuvenating a Potent Idea. The Academy of Management Executive (1993-2005), 14, 3, 67-80.

[iv] World at Work: Total Rewards Model. pp. 1-8. 2008. World at Work, (8 pages).


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4 Responses to Forming the Basis for Revolutionary Change in Organizations

  1. Judy Lundy says:

    Thanks for this great article. I sense we are at a tipping point where we need to radically rethink how we design our organisations and the type of mindset you describe here is necessary for the new forms of organising necessary in today’s world

    • KakieF says:

      Hi Judy, thanks for your comments, I agree with you as do many well known leadership experts. The term; “thrive or die” argues the case that not radically rethinking how organizations are designed along with the ways change is introduced to people could cause organizations to die. In another post, The Emerging Mindset – Revolutionary Change which compares old and new thinking. Thanks for visiting my blog!

  2. M.G. says:

    Haven’t we been going through revolutionary change for quite some time? If change is constant as of toted can you have a revolution in something that changes constantly, meaning the notion of revolution applied must also change constantly in response?

    • KakieF says:

      Hi MG, I agree that organizations we have been experiencing revolutionary change since 1995 and the launch of the internet (ie Netscape). Constant change is not the same as revolutionary change because revolutionary change comes as the result of a punctuated equilibrium, which is a revision of Darwin’s theory of evolution. Punctuated equilibrium in business, cycles through long periods of stability and then to an environment of rapid change and uncertainty.
      Arguments continue that the long periods of stability are getting shorter and shorter due to emerging technology. Successfully leading transformation in today’s environment involves adopting an emerging mindset that happens Pre-launch, during launch, post-launch and then sustaining the change. . I wrote a post that compares the industrial mindset and the emerging mindset required for revolutionary change which can be found here:
      I hope that helps, thanks for joining the conversation, feel free to chime in with additional questions/comments.

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