Managing the Spiral of Change


In most organizations change is inevitable. The cycle is
something like this – a new idea is created. This idea can come from many
sources, either external or internal, but mostly change starts with an idea,
that “aha!” moment.


The idea is disused and debated. It’s morphed and

Then, the team or individual finds peace with it and is
ready to launch it to the next group or function within the organization. He or
she presents the idea with passion, perfected PowerPoint or Keynote slides,
they may even wear a killer outfit just to add to the excitement. But, when
they are finished they hear the dull roar of silence. They proudly present the
idea and FLOP it hits the floor with a thud. What happened?

Before we go there, lets continue the story. Our leader
(idea generator) talks and cajoles and sells their idea to this next level.
They finally get it! So, the next step is to take the idea to the next level in
the organization and guess what happens? It once again hits the floor with a
thud with a new group of people. What happened?

It’s called the spiral of change. One person or one level of
the organization gets an idea and each time they present the idea to the next
level it takes them a lot of work to get the same excitement they feel about
it. What happens is they don’t understand the spiral.

When you or your team has an idea and then need to take it
to another group or team, in reality your thinking is way ahead of them. Your
personal spiral is several rungs ahead of where they are – they haven’t even
heard of the idea and you expect them to immediately be at the same place you
are. Believe me, this won’t happen very often.

I see it all the time in our product meetings. The person
who has the passion for the product has to work hard to get others to accept
it, and then when they take it to another level (our Sales team for example)
they have to work hard again. Why? Each new team is at the bottom of the
spiral. They must be brought (or pulled) up to the same level on the spiral if
you expect to successfully implement the idea or change.

The best way I’ve found to do this is by “making meaning”
for the next group. When I take time to make meaning and give them the context,
the purpose, the felt need and the strategy they seem to come up the spiral
must quickly and more ready to embrace the change or new idea.

Making meaning is an integral part of your team building
arsenal if you expect people to come alongside you and follow you (especially
during change). Making meaning for the team brings peace to the team as well as
a level of significant trust. People are quicker to accept the change if they
fully understand the why behind the change and their role in the new tomorrow.
With meaning, the spiral of change flattens. 


2 Responses to “Managing the Spiral of Change”

  1. gwagner says:

    Great post Wayne.
    How true, how true.

  2. Davidov says:

    That staircase reminds me of American Psycho.

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