Your company has an IT system that works. When the system was established (with great effort) it was the most up to date and efficient system. Over a few years things changed, the team changed, the technology changed and the access to support services changed.
While the system is not in dire need of change, something has to shift to meet the changing needs of the organisation. But what? How much will it cost? Who can assist? Who should manage this? Whose needs count? What is essential and what is desired but not necessary? Who should be consulted within the team?
Imagine the tension and potential conflict this could cause among staff.
“he said it wouldn’t cost that much” “she said we’d be up and running quickly” “they said the transition would be seamless”…
Want to lead your team beyond the conflict?
It’s all about how you frame resistance
Complexity theory in leadership frames leadership as a ‘complex interactive dynamic from which adaptive outcomes (e.g. learning, innovation and adaptability) emerge. Leadership becomes adaptive, administrative and enabling. (Walker, Wilcox and Muir. 2017).
Conflict will arise and it is the role of the leader to frame the conflict as ‘a sign of resistance in the complex system’ – rather than a personality challenge.
It’s all too easy to point the finger at the person who ‘doesn’t like change’ or perhaps the one that ‘marches ahead with little regard of the others’. Complexity theory isn’t about allocating blame in a changing situation, it’s about recognising a system as:
“many interrelated parts, complexity leadership involves enabling outcomes and collective intelligence, rather than controlling or directing them. ‘As enablers, leaders disrupt existing patterns of behaviour, encourage novelty, and make sense of emerging events for others.”
As an organisational or process leader, questions to ask of your team at this point include: “Where in the system are we experiencing resistance, chaos or rigidity” – thereby shifting the focus from the individual to the system.
Now imagine if this isn’t the IT system but the distribution of wealth within a community – or perhaps the approach to criminal justice or even how young people engage with a school.
Change is complex and has many opportunities for conflict. Guiding your team to work through the discomfort of change is an imperative component of leadership.
Walker, A., Wilcox. T., Powell, A., and Muir, K. (2017) The Navigator: Your guide to leadership for
social purpose. Sydney, Australia: The Centre for Social Impact http://www.csi.edu.au/media/uploads/csi_the_navigator_final_web.pdf