Making Meaning: Change from the Beginning

Change is the only constant in business today.

Change is the new normal.

Change is hard.

Change or die.

A lot has been said and written about the phenomenon of change.  It’s a good thing too, because change is all around us all the time.  Always has been that way.  It is a fundamental condition of being alive, despite what anyone tells you.  

It only seems, in retrospect, like there was once a golden age sometime in our past when everything was still and knowable.  Perhaps the change came at us more slowly then, but it was there nonetheless.

Whomever you like on the subject of change, whatever thinking or model appeals to you, it all starts in the same place: taking stock of where you are now.  

What are you noticing -- in yourself, in your team, in the organization?

What in your interactions has led to the situation you find yourself in?

What is the best thing about what is happening now? 

One could say that a big reason the Obama administration has been less successful than expected in creating the change it promised is that it didn’t do a sufficient job of assessing the overall situation at the time it was getting started.

The reason for this stock taking is to get the relevant information out into the open, so you can see it and talk about it.  Sure, there are going to be differing experiences and contradictory data.  That’s kind of the point.  Unless you’re aware of where you are, it will be very risky to choose your next steps.  If you are all starting from different places, there’s no telling where those steps might take you.

What are the stories you are telling yourselves?

What themes emerge from all these stories?

What do these themes say about you and where you are right now?

There are a number of tools you can use to perform this assessment, to create an understanding of the ground you are inhabiting together.  I like conversations.  It sounds obvious, but talking to people individually or in groups can be a very rich source of data.  Sometimes the culture or some aspect of the situation won’t allow this.  Then, try getting people to write it down.  Send out a survey that asks about what you are interested in.  You can also pull the files that pertain to the current situation.  A robust approach will use some combination of these (and other) ideas.

Regardless of how you do it, remember you are seeking an answer to this fundamental question:  What is the shared meaning you make out of your current circumstances?