Imagine if you fell asleep one day and woke up five years later to find that everything around you had been transformed. That’s large-scale change, and it’s what Paul Plsek teaches in the Ko Awatea one-day session Leading Large-Scale Change in Complex Systems.
As a consultant in creativity, innovation and leadership of change, Chair of Innovation at the Virginia Mason Health System in Seattle, and former Director of the Academy for Large-Scale Change in the UK, Paul has a wealth of experience at leading transformational change.
In Leading Large-Scale Change in Complex Systems, Paul takes an interactive approach to teaching people in change leadership roles how to create transformational change. The session attracts people who manage projects, senior leaders, and those at the forefront of driving change in healthcare organisations.
The session explores the key drivers of large-scale change.
Vision is crucial. Large-scale change is about moving from the current state to a vision of the future. Stakeholder engagement is the key to success. Achieving large-scale change doesn’t happen with a small group of people rolling out a plan and trying to secure buy-in from others. It’s about acting with stakeholders: constantly creating a shared vision and taking the steps towards realising that vision with everyone involved.
Part of maximising engagement is applying the principle of distributed leadership – encouraging people to step up and lead parts of the effort towards realising a vision. “The best way to kill a transformational effort is to try and control it with a small group of leaders who do everything and have to approve everything,” says Paul. “They have to let it go, let it become organic within the system.”
Having conversations with stakeholders about the current system and what they think could be improved about it is another important part of the process of engaging people in change. Open communication enables leaders to understand stakeholders’ values and their sense of what needs to be done. Paul identifies the need to understand others’ values as one of the key learning points of the session for many participants.
“Often, when we make presentations to people about the need to change, we describe it in a way that fits our values. Then, when they don’t get engaged, we consider them to be resistant. My point is that they’re not resisting anything – you didn’t communicate in a way that resonated with their sense of what’s important and what their core values are. So I think what lot of people took away as a lesson is that we need to stop blaming other people for being resistors or being negative. Look in the mirror and ask what you can do in a different way to get that engagement happening.”
Does Paul have any advice to offer Ko Awatea in its mission to create transformational change?
“Encourage teams of people to come for learning events rather than just individuals. I worry about individuals who come to these events and get very excited about what they’ve learnt, but then go back to their teams and have no one to talk to, or have difficulty keeping it going … It’s always valuable for individuals to learn something, but practical approaches to creating change in organisations are a team sport. Strongly encourage people to come as a team.”