I recently visited an organization that used humor as a way to avoid deep conversations. While the leadership team didn’t have an issue with talking about problems, there came a time when the conversation was teetering dangerously towards the depth of deeper meaning. At that point, someone tossed out a joke to let the air out of the room.
It was easy for me to see this dynamic right away so I reflected it back and the group acknowledged it. Then an amazing thing happened: they became like Skynet. They became self-aware, and when it came time for a deeper conversation, they jumped in.
While it was easy for me to spot this dynamic, it’s hard when you’re ‘in the system’. The deeper you sink into an organization, the harder it becomes to see reasons why a change is stalling. That can make it more difficult to get un-stuck.
Many years ago I attended AYE, and I came away with the MOIJ model. ( http://www.nkarten.com/moimodel.pdf ) The “J” represents “jiggle” and in this context, it means sometimes a little tinkering is necessary to get un-stuck. We change people like to paint a gloomy picture about why a change is stalling, but sometimes we might have hit the natural ebb of change.
All changes weave their way through varying stages of chaos, and homeostasis. High chaos means stuff is happening. That stuff sometimes is simply learning about what the right change should be. If the change doesn’t work, homeostasis sets in as we metaphorically catch our breath, and then we start the cycle all over again:
- Problem: All changes are a response to a problem that someone wants to solve for some reason.
- Intervention: Someone does something, whether it’s hiring a change consultant, making a blanket policy change, igniting the rumor mill with false information to get the organization to response etc.
- Response to Change: The organization and the people in it respond to the Intervention. They might be happy, sad, elated, relieved, angry, confused, depressed or what-have-you.
- Mess! This is the gooey innards of change. Political gesturing happens, different interpretations of the ‘why’ behind the change clash with each other, consultants argue about who’s method is the best etc.
- Confusion: Some question the change and the assumptions behind it. Others wonder why it didn’t work from their perspective, others are confused about why everyone thought the original problem was such a big problem when it was only because someone left the toilet seat up in the unisex bathroom.
- Catch Our Breath: We accept that something didn’t work right, or we think we got the small improvement we wanted, but things settle down and go back to normal. This is also known as the ‘AHA!’ stage of change.
- Relapse or small success: We sink back to the old status quo, or we’ve arrived at the new status quo. Either way, all is calm…for now.
- Jiggle: While some think the change worked or was useless in the first place, those who think it didn’t work will want to try again. Sometimes the Jiggle can lead directly to another Mess, sometimes, it might spawn a new Intervention, but sometimes a little culture hack or another change event happens.
We like our change models to be linear because it gives us a feeling of certainty, that our brains crave. Problem is, there are multiple threads of change weaving their way through our organizations constantly.
Getting a change unstuck doesn’t necessarily mean a big intervention or re-planning of the entire change is needed. Sometimes a little jiggle is all that is needed. People who come to my workshop often ask if Lean Change Management is a method, framework, set of tools or what-have-you. They also ask how they can use Lean Change Management as their ‘official’ change method in their organization.
If you need more substance in your approach, use the techniques in the book to create your own contextual approach to change. Otherwise, if you only need a Jiggle, there are plenty of options to use to make that happen.