An Association Committee’s Three Responses To Change And Innovation

The Game Show

Here’s your Who Wants to be A Millionaire million dollar question: What are the three states of association committee change?

Is that your final answer? I’m sorry but solid, liquid and gas are not the right responses. And no, the State of WADITW (we’ve always done it this way), the State of WFIIINB (why fix it if it’s not broke) and the State of DIMWN (do it my way now) are not correct either.

Resisted, Constrained and Dynamic are the three states of organizational change says author, CEO, and researcher Julian Stodd. Stodd developed an organizational change framework that can help identify each person’s, group or organization’s primary state. He observed that the most common behaviors associated with these three states of change are lethargy, churn and opportunity respectively.

What State Are You In?

We are living in an era of unprecedented, rapid, disruptive change. It affects us personally, professionally, institutionally, globally and locally. Similarly, our attitudes, behaviors and mental models also affect organizational change.

So how does your organization respond to change? Do your leaders and employees embrace or reject change? How do your change initiatives relate to innovation?

Here are Stodd’s insights about the three states of organizational change. As you read this, ask yourself, “What state is my organization in?”

1. Resisted

Those in the resisted state deny change. They respond to change with fine-tuned, well-practiced set of survival skills to out-maneuver change. They operate at peak efficiency to maintain the status quo, to keep equilibrium, and to stay stable and safe.

Their response worked well in the 20th Century to keep people focused on the tasks. However it doesn’t work for the 21st Century.

“Doing what we’ve always done will fail to deliver even the same result: it’s a law of diminishing returns,” states Stodd.

The resisted maintain a lethargic disposition. They react to disturbance and change by deploying antibodies to suffocate change. They identify those favorable to change and strangle their efforts. Their goal is to make the committee and ultimately the organization impervious to change. Their resistance underscores their mental framework of fear of the unknown, safety in repeating the past, and anxiety regarding the loss of a tried-and-true element.

Ironically, many association leaders default to the path of least resistance. They display the Not In My Back Yard (NIMBY) or Not Under My Watch (NUMW) syndromes as they resist change.

2. Constrained

According to Stodd, the constrained state is the most common and prolific organizational state of change. Constrained individuals recognize they need to change. They start with an intent to change and work hard to achieve. Regrettably, they are ineffective and get stuck in churn.

Yes, constrained groups are very busy keeping busy. And yes, they may be doing good work. It’s just the wrong work to actually advance the organization. They cling to “This is how we’ve always done it,” like a life preserver. They refuse to relinquish their control. Without realizing it, they embrace churning.

Churning is much harder to identify and deal with, because organizations in churn, who are constrained, both want to change and believe that they are changing, and yet somehow they remain unfit for the future, unable to thrive, claims Stodd.

Those in the constrained state are treading water, exhausted from keeping their head afloat and making no real progress. Their constrained often experience burnout and departure from the organization.

3. Dynamic

Dynamic organizations display a healthy balance of formal and informal structures, low barriers to participation, and empowered communities. Leaders salivate for this dynamic state.

Dynamic states are no longer drained from fighting antibodies. They don’t lose their power to high-control individuals who fear things will spiral out of control. They break through the guardians of change by addressing the A in ACE–a brain-friendly approach to change.

Dynamic states use a transformational model for change. Leaders set the direction of the change journey and invite everyone to be involved in collaboratively co-creating their future. Consequently, individuals become invested in the change. They shape and own it. They innovate.

This investment in change is critical. It boils down to each person being willing to change and engaged in changing. The collective energy of those involved in the change allows them to ask “What constitutes risk? Can we take some calculated risks to pilot new experiences?” They recognize when risk is the fuel of change and when it’s an all-consuming fire.

Organizations in the dynamic state are extremely agile and with great adaptability. An organization experiencing the dynamic state should be able to measure changes every six weeks states Stodd.

If six weeks seems like a short time, we can say 12, but if we say 12, before we know it, it has become 24, or 48 weeks…[then] the future is upon us and we have not changed…If we cannot see a change in six weeks, then we are simply observing the fact that we need to change. We are in fact Constrained, explains Stodd.

Which state in your organization currently in and how can you tell? Why is churning such a dangerous state and how can we help others identify when they are stuck in churn without appearing condescending or arrogant?

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