Changing the way we change

Pirsig, wrote in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, “If a factory is torn down but the rationality which produced it is left standing, then that rationality will simply produce another factory.” This quote has been used by many to illustrate the difference between our underlying systems of thought and the tangible results of that thinking, and to point out that merely changing the outputs without changing the process that produced the outputs is no change at all.

We see this in large change initiatives across organisations. Change is planned in the way all other work has always been planned. Outputs may be achieved but the usual ways of doing things continue. No change in thinking. More often than not we don’t want to change. If we did, we’d have done it already. Much easier to continue as we were and focus on the appearance of change through pre-planned outputs.

If we want to change we have to find ways to change the way we change. And it isn’t that difficult. We ask, “how do we do this now”, and then decide not to do it that way. Try something else. Experiment. Design the way forward as we go. Change shouldn’t have predictable outcomes, it should be uncertain and with results that emerge as it progresses.