I was recently helping my daughter set up a home crystal growing kit, and having created a few rock candy growing jars in my childhood I thought the process would be simple.
A jar of warm solution, a stick, and a string. Done!
Not so fast…
I was surprised when the directions read that a seed crystal was required. I wondered why this was necessary and learned that using a seed crystal has the following benefits:
- reduces randomness in crystal formation – new crystalline structures attach to the seed crystal not anywhere on the jar
- the new molecular formations will form more easily into the desired shape
- decreases the amount of time for the phase transition to occur
What does crystal growing have to do with leading change?
This immediately made me think of a common structure for facilitating organization change and engaging employees, the change network. If you aren’t familiar, a change network is a select group of employees or representative sample of the groups impacted by the change who interact with the change lead for a specific purpose.
I think a change network actively researching the organization and experimenting with solutions to the challenges of change is a great way to use a change network. It works with the iterative nature of organization change and it engages the organization in the critical success factor, learning!! The change network learns the new ways of working through experimentation and eliminate activity that is no longer needed.
Regardless of the purpose that you assign to the change network. Keep in mind that the network is the ‘seed crystal‘ and the purpose of leveraging this structure for change is to reduce the randomness in the organization, send the same message broad and deep throughout the organization. Avoid having multiple interpretations of the change form throughout the organization.
The change network gives employees an example of stability and a group to emulate as they encounter many points of instability as the changes occur. The org can model the ‘shape or the interactions and behaviors of the change network. Once a peer is seen doing the ‘new way’ it will be easier for others to follow.
Lastly, change networks can reduce the amount of time for change because more parts of the system are involved sooner and can begin to make micro adjustments as the future vision is described and understood. Not to mention the benefit of having the people with the most experience of the organization and their job responsibilities designing the common sense approach to the change that will impact them.
Suggestions for how to build your change network:
Selection considerations –
- representatives from each of the teams impacted by the change and representatives from each organization level
- a group of enthusiastic employees who are ready to learn and want to be in the middle of it all to help actively design the future
- leverage social network analysis and identify your top socially credible and highly connected employees to influence change
Options for the work and purpose of the change network
- Consultative – notice how the organization is learning and adjusting to the change. Discuss observations and impact with the members of the network to make adjustments where necessary
- Employee Listening – gather information about how the organization is adapting to the change and identify any associated risks to the desired end result
- Action Research – gathering up information about what the organization needs to make a change and then experimenting with solutions in real time in the flow of work to gain commitment and buy in for a solution.
Here’s the link to an experiment you can do at home in case your inner scientist is curious or you just need a break from the daily grind!