Steps to navigate change

 photo by  oatsy

photo by oatsy

What's the minimum order we need to navigate change meaningfully and productively? Too much control and we kill learning, too little and everything falls apart. My go to is the chaordic stepping stones. I use the chaordic stepping stones all the time: project planning, meeting preparation, long term strategic plans, my own personal reflection, designing events and trainings, writing proposals … the list goes on. Key to moving through the steps is having solid questions to ask that can get to the information you are seeking. Below are some of the questions I use it again and again in my Change Leadership and short intro for those meeting Chaordic for the first time.

Using chaordic stepping stones for planning

The chaordic path is the path that walks between chaos and order. Too much chaos results in wasted energy and little progress. Too much order can stifle creativity and a nimble responsiveness to dynamic situations or opportunities. When we don't know or are not sure where we are going, or what we can do to best serve the future, we can bring useful form to our work by working with clear steps. These steps are intended to create generative structures that allow us to be most effective in the stages of our work without stifling creativity, the emergence of new ideas and new ways of doing things.

Video of me introducing the stepping stones at an Art of Hosting in Halifax, Nova Scotia in 2011.

Each of these steps is activated by asking key questions. As we design our work together we can select from these questions (or design others) to help us explore each stone as we lay it in place. The steps themselves are key inquiries we need to remain if we want to lead in and navigate through change.

The steps and the questions


NEED

The need is the compelling reason for doing anything. Sensing the need is the first step to designing a meeting, organizational structure or change initiative that is relevant. The need is outside of our work: it is the thing that is served by the work you are doing. It is the reason the work is important and necessary.

  • What is the need? What would be most helpful?
  • Why are we doing this? Why is it important?
  • What context are we operating in? 
  • What are the challenges and opportunities we are facing? 
  • What do we need to know or understand in order to be successful in this endeavour?
  • What is the need that this project can uniquely meet? 
  • What does the organisation, community, region need this initiative to be?
  • Why is this commitment important to me and my organization?

PURPOSE

From the need flows the purpose. Purpose statements are clear and compelling and guide us in doing our best possible work. They are not statements of actions, necessary achievements or behaviour. They are statements of what we as a group need to become to be able to best act together in the context we are in.

  • What would we like to become? If we could achieve this our lives and work and the lives of those we serve would be better.
  • What is our highest aspiration for this project?
  • What could this initiative become that would best serve the need?
  • What could this work do/create/inspire?
  • Where should we be heading?
  • What is the simplest and most compelling question we could keep at the core of our work?
  • What do I want to become and learn as a member of this project? How will this benefit me and my organisation? 
  • What is my unique role in this initiative? What is my organisation’s unique role in the project?

PRINCIPLES

Principles of cooperation help us to know how we will work together. It is very important that these principles be simple, co-owned and well understood. These are not principles that are platitudes or that lie on a page somewhere. They are crisp statements of how we agree to operate together so that over the long term we can sustain the relationships that make this work possible.

  • How would we like to behave and work together in pursuit of our purpose?
  • What are the principles that should guide our work?
  • What is it important to remember about how we want to work with each other and the participants in our initiative?
  • What do we think is most important to remember as we design to meet the need and purpose?
  • What unique ways of doing work and being together can we bring to this work?
  • If our team lived up to its fullest potential what would it be like? 
  • What is the desired culture and atmosphere of this initiative?

PEOPLE

Once the need and the purpose are in the place and we have agreed on our principles of co-operation, we can begin to identify the people, organizations or stakeholders that would contribute and have a role in our work. Mapping the network helps us to see who is in this work along side us and who will have an interest in what we are doing.

  • Who is most affected and/or interested and can most support our work? 
  • Who do we need to engage to meet the need, pursue the purpose and follow the principles?
  • Who are our supporters and champions?
  • Who are our sponsors?
  • Who are decision makers in existing structures that we need to be working with?
  • Who are our mentors and guides?
  • Who holds important information? 
  • Who influences our ability to succeed? 
  • Whose perspectives need to be taken into account?
  • Who is currently involved?
  • Who is not involved and how do we bring them in?
  • What voices do we need to engage to be able to best serve the needs of all stakeholders?
  • What are the particular strengths, resources and gifts of each of the participating organisations and individuals?
  • How do we leverage relationships to propagate the ideas generated by our work together?
  • Who will be interested in the results of our work?
  • Who are we most concerned about engaging? Why?
  • Where is there greatest energy, skills or resources in our networks for the change we want to lead?
  • Who do we expect to block our work? Who could be or create obstacles to our success?
  • What do we (as a team) need to keep, be aware of, develop and avoid?
  • Who else needs to be brought ‘on board’?

CONCEPT

As we move to a more concrete idea of what our structures are, we begin to explore the concepts that will be useful. This is a high level look at the shape of our endeavour. For example, if our need was to design a way to cross a body of water, we could choose a bridge, a causeway or a ferry. The concept is important, because it describes the alternative structures for doing our work.

  • How are we going to organize together (to meet need, pursue purpose, follow principles and serve the people)? 
  • What should the initiative look like generally? What type of form would work best?
  • What is the best basic organising pattern?
  • What are our rhythms of meeting? How and how often should we meet?
  • What are key pillars and action domains?
  • What is a map of the relationships and value exchange between stakeholders?
  • What is the basic timeline and roadmap for the next 6-18months?
  • What key concepts do we need to integrate into our work?
  • What is the deeper pattern of our work and what organizational forms are in alignment with that?
  • How might we activate our principles to best do our work?
  • What is the minimum amount of form that will allow us to work together in a collaborative and effective manner?
  • What concept is aligned with need, purpose, principles and people?
  • How do we sustain and nourish our relationships and collective aspirations?

LIMITING BELIEFS

So much of what we do when we organize ourselves is based on unquestioned models or patterns of behaviour. These patterns can be helpful but they can also limit us in fulfilling our true potential. We cannot create innovation in the world using old models and approaches if they are not matched to the current need and situation . It pays to examine ways in which we assume work gets done in order to discover the new ways that might serve work with new results. Engaging in this work together brings us into a collaborative working relationship, where we can help each other into new and powerful ways of working together, alleviating the fear and anxiety of the unknown.

  • How am I/are we part of the problem? In what ways are my/our patterns potential problems or obstacles?
  • What do I need to let go of to enable this project to succeed?
  • Where am I blocking our work together?
  • What organizational and community beliefs will block our work together?
  • What do we fear about new ways of working together?
  • What am I most afraid of? 
  • What could get in the way?
  • What is the next level of leadership I am stepping into?
  • Where is my will unhesitatingly connected to this project?
  • What will it take for us to fully enter into working in new and unfamiliar ways? 
  • What do you need from our team to feel supported in uncertainty?

STRUCTURE

Once the concept has been chosen, it is time to create the structure that will channel our resources. It is in these conversations that we make decisions about the resources of the group: time, money, energy, commitment, and attention.

  • What is the lightest structure that will serve our purpose and need?
  • How do we wisely combine the various organizational concepts to support our work and sustain the results?
  • How will we make decisions?
  • Who has decision making power and over what?
  • What legal issues do we need to consider?
  • What is our legal structure? What implications will that have?
  • Where will this project be housed to best serve its purpose?
  • What structural positioning is important within our context? How should it be described?
  • Who will be organising and co-ordinating? How will they be supported?
  • What key roles will be played and how will they be enabled?
  • What contracts / MOUs do we need to create to support clarity among us?
  • How will funds and resources be administrated? Where will they come from?
  • Who has ownership on any products, bi-products and outcomes of this work?
  • What commitments are we willing to make to contribute to the success of our endeavour?
  • How do we leverage relationships and support the work that arises from them?

PRACTICE

The ongoing practice within the structures we build is important. This is the world of to do lists, conference calls and email exchanges. The invitation here is to practice working with one another in alignment with the designs we have created. The intention here is to work together in ways that are best aligned to support our progress—likely to be most effective.

  • What do we need to do to sustain our work together?
  • What from our own practices of working could work well in this context?
  • How do we leverage relationships and support the work that arises from them?
  • How do we sustain and nourish our relationships and collective aspirations?
  • What commitments are we willing to make to contribute to the success of our endeavour?
  • What are our organizational practices so we can stay grounded through change?
  • What methodologies do we know work with iterations of action and learning?

HARVEST

There is no point in doing work in the world unless we plan to harvest the fruits of our labours, learning from it and sharing it most effectively. Harvesting includes making meaning of our work, telling the story and feeding forward our results so that they have the desired impacts.

  • What are the forms of harvest from our work that best serves the need? 
  • What intentional harvest will serve our purpose?
  • What should we intend to get out of our work together and how can we make sure we gather, evaluate and share what is most essential?
  • What are the artifacts that will be the most powerful representations of what we have created?
  • How will we carry the DNA of our work forward?
  • What are the feedback loops that we need to design to ensure that learning and change accelerates itself?
  • How will we stay open to new, evolving and fresh learning? 
  • What are the questions we need to carry about what we are learning by meeting and working this way?
  • How will we evaluate our project to best accelerate our learning?

There is lots here and lots missing, I am sure. I hope you find it helpful as you design and deliver your work. Change ahead! —TM


This post was originally published at Tim Merry's site.