I’ve often heard people say something along the lines of, “Organizations don’t change, individuals do,” which implies that the focus of our attention as change agents should be on individuals, not the organization. However, not only do we need to focus on both the individual and organizational scales of change, we need to focus on a third level in between as well: the team.
Let’s take a look at each of these scales to see how you might approach them differently for your project.
Organizations are made up of individuals. In order for an organization to change, each person in that organization needs to change: activities, behaviors, attitudes, and achievement. In that sense, the quote rings true. As change agents, we need to equip individuals with training, tools, and clarity about their role in the change, and to consider individual reasons for resistance.
Individuals don’t work in a vacuum. They depend on each other to get things done. They reinforce each other’s behaviors by their reactions. The team scale is where change often falls apart, because we don’t focus our attention on how people will work together to implement the change, and how the status quo is reinforced by peer pressure. Team leaders and team members need to help each other be accountable for change and encourage and support each other.
We can’t ignore the organizational scale, because the organization as a whole will only change if there is alignment between teams. To get all the teams and individuals moving in the same direction takes coordination across the enterprise, whether it’s one department or a global collection of business units. Develop a shared vision and strategy across the organization that aligns the team and individual scales.
As you influence change at work, keep in mind that change occurs at three different scales: individual, team, and organizational. Evaluate your change activities, like training, communication, and leadership, to see which scale they are focused on. How will you ensure that you’re addressing change at each level?