Why exploration is crucial in any organizational change

The world around us is changing rapidly. And the world keeps changing. Continuously. This places new demands on leadership. Leadership in which you truly add value to the organization and the environment in which you operate. Value-creating leadership. It is no longer just about economic gain, but also about achieving ecologically sound and socially just results. Complex? I guess so. This can only succeed if you work together with people and organisations with diverse views. How do you make this work? The route to successful change includes four phases. In this blog more about phase 1: Exploration.

Love to change?

Change, we’re not very fond of it. That’s because our brains aren’t designed for it. Our brain is set up for habitual behavior. Ideally, we will reach our goal with no more effort than necessary. Another reason is that change is accompanied by the loss of the familiar. And that leads to uncertainty. The need for change is therefore not always recognized within organizations. Because it’s going well, right? We’re meeting our targets, aren’t we? This attitude is disastrous, precisely because the world around us is changing so much. A painful example of this is Kodak. Once the undisputed market leader in photography. But the company stuck to the old familiar, missed the boat and went bankrupt in 2012. In short: you have to go.

Analysis, vision creation and support

If you notice that the world is changing, what will you do? For this, it is necessary to first make a thorough analysis. The model of value creating leadership distinguishes the following three steps in this phase: Analysis, Visioning and Creating Support:

Analysis: Collecting information

As a director or manager, have you recognised the need to change? And will you get the others to go along with it? Then you start analyzing the situation around you. In other words, you are going to collect information and interpret it. Important to do! Because people and organizations often forget the context in which they act. We’ve become internally focused. Moreover, we tend to do something immediately. But you don’t know how to act until you know what the environment looks like and changes. And what the environment demands. Only then can you make policy for, say, the next 3 or 5 years. So turn your gaze outwards! What does the environment or market look like now? How are competition, society and legislation developing? What political developments might affect our organization? And what does the environment demand of our organisation, now and in the years ahead?

Advice: take your time for the analysis. This is to prevent you from basing your vision and strategy on an incorrect or incomplete picture of the situation.

Vision creation: what will our organisation do and contribute?

Have you mapped the context of your organisation properly? Then you set your sights on your own organisation. What does all this mean for our organisation? How do we deal with the changes? What do we need to be prepared for? And what do we want with our organization? What are we going to do? And how will we contribute to society in the coming years? In short, you develop a shared vision and strategy. And you set the preconditions within which you operate.

A good example is the fire brigade. If you have established together that the fire service is there for the safety of society, what does that mean for the organisation? Do we still have to participate in events? Is it still true that we are a volunteer organisation or do we need more professionals? Another example: you run an ICT company and have developed a wonderful concept. But your competitor now has the same concept. How can you maintain your market position? Do you need to perhaps shift or broaden your focus?

The vision and strategy must be completely clear, right down to middle management level. After all, middle management makes the translation to the operational level. Suppose that from now on the fire brigade focuses only on extinguishing fires and on prevention, and therefore no longer takes part in events. Then it’s up to middle management to see what impact this has on the people doing the work. Maybe cuts have to be made and some will be given a different job. So from the vision and strategy you determine the preconditions.

A good vision or strategy excites everyone. People take action and become creative and innovative. For a good vision you go through 5 steps:
Step 1: Brainstorm with your team
Where do you want to go with your organization in the medium and long term? And what does this mean for clients? Together you dream about the future.
Step 2: Identify 3 to 6 core values that support your vision
Such as: customer focus, quality, innovation, etc.
Step 3: Create examples with the core values
Ask yourself questions such as: “How is this core value reflected in our business model?” and “How is the core value reflected in our value proposition?

Step 4:

Create a clear strategy

How are you going to fill in the core values? Who’s going to do that? and how?

Step 5:

Tell your story!

To all those directly involved in your organization. Stories can make a difference. And if told well, you will enthuse the people in your organisation.

Creating support: how do we get our people on board?

Involve employees in the organizational change. I know, that sounds very logical. And yet that’s where things often go wrong. Too many changes are still imposed from above. While it is so important to create support. Moreover, people on the shop floor often have very good ideas. Everyone knows it, but few organizations do it well.

How do you do that? With storytelling. By doing so, you tell the story in the context of an event from the organization. A story with a beginning, middle and end. With a main character, a storyline with a development as a result of a struggle, dilemma or conflict. With opponents and allies. The story is authentic (or at least true-to-life), personal and thought-provoking. The story evokes an emotion. And with that, you take your employees with you.

Good to know: if you have a clear vision and strategy, some people will no longer fit in their current position or within the organisation. During an organizational change, an average of 10% of the employees will do something else, either inside or outside the organization. Take this into account in the exploratory phase. Finally, an important tip: when you are a member of a network organisation, keep in mind that the relationships you make are reciprocal and the contacts professional. Socializing and friendship are certainly important, but the network meetings should be about something and not become exclusive clubs. When you put the content first, maintain your contacts seriously and sincerely and are open in your intentions, you will see that membership in network organisations is extremely beneficial and therefore very valuable for the development of your business.

What does this mean for my leadership role?

If the organization changes, it asks a lot of you as a leader. Do you agree with the new vision and strategy? What will your contribution be? And what does the change mean for your leadership role and leadership capabilities? My advice: keep up with your craft. And be aware that modern leadership requires the realization of multiple value creation. Economically feasible, ecologically sound and socially just. This requires the attitude and skill to mobilize collaborations and to be able to think beyond one’s own boundaries.

So what? Make the translation

The Exploration phase provides a concrete vision and strategy. And preconditions to build on. So what? Then it’s time to make the translation to all levels of your organization. You do that in phase 2: Designing, this blog will follow soon. Would you like to be kept informed? Sign up for our newsletter.

Want to know more about value-creating leadership? Then download the ebook Leadership in the Economy of Value or check out our knowledge page on Value-Creating Leadership. Or
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Pim Valentijn

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