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Monthly Archives: July 2016

Learn Why This CEO’s Change Efforts Failed


I recently met with a CEO of a large corporation. He was demoralised and confused by the limited impact a 3-year culture change program had, in which they had invested EUR 300 000. Despite a substantial effort, it seemed it was a waste of money. However, there were many aspects at the beginning that they got right.

What did they do Right?

  • The change was initiated and supported at board level
  • During the change program, a clear vision and goals were developed, which fuelled a sense of urgency
  • Change management efforts (information about the change) targeted top level, middle management and pockets of people across the company
  • The change program provided staff with a menu of options such as workshops, team meetings or one on one coaching to help them embrace the changes
  • Changes were rolled out and supported over a substantial period of time
  • They celebrated and marked important milestones
  • The team leaders had an active role in facilitating change with their own teams

Yet, this organizational change failed?

  • The Chairman seemed to be fully on board at the outset, but quickly lost interest and it was visible to all
  • The Voices of Judgement (VoJ), Voices of Cynicism (VoC) and Voices of Fear (VoF) in the organization remained unchecked (see Otto Scharmer’s work)
  • The Chairman’s lack of support (his VoC) for the program was not raised with him this had a snowball effect
  • In the culture of this organization, it was customary to preserve harmony and stability at all costs. Therefore when concerns or issues were noted or raised, they were quickly minimized, shut down or ignored (VoF)
  • Senior managers could not really buy-in to the change since the chairman’s attitude undermined the program. It was therefore not ‘politically correct’ for managers to act as role models for change (VoF)
  • People in the organization, as well as the change leaders, defended the status quo and remained silent, and in denial of resistance (VoJ)
  • The organization lost the ‘critical mass’ which is needed to reach the tipping point for changing the old, dysfunctional, obsolete status quo (VoF)

Solution: Strategic Systems Coaching

In organisations like the one in this case, the executive leadership is the portal to change the rest of the organisation. If commitment and trust are lacking at the executive and management level, it will be difficult to develop leadership and achieve real organisational change. This commitment and trust is therefore vital, and systems coaching is one way to keep this on the agenda and not let it slide.

  • Strategic systems coaching means coaching an organisation’s leadership so that the organisation can change as a whole system. 
  • In systems coaching process, we apply various coaching processes to change management methodology. 
  • This is a highly effective way to facilitate change, connection and integration in organisational systems. 
  • We provide an opportunity for leaders to step back and look at the elements of their organisation and the relationships with and between these elements, and then to examine how these relationships and elements dynamically interact via feedback loops. 
  • Voices of Judgement, Voices of Cynicism and Voices of Fear are part of any organisational reinvention and coaching offers a safe forum to work through it.
  • Changing is not just about doing the right stuff, It rests on true commitment of the spirit and heart of the people to make the changes.
  • Along every step of the way, leadership influences the existing culture by either facing or ignoring the underlying convictions of (fear, judgement, and cynicism) that derail real change.

Our systems coaches help organisations to change as a whole system and make the journey smoother and more effective. 
I want our organizational change to be effective 

Madeleine van Der Steege

For more information or comments please contact me on mads@synquity.com

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