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Does Your Workplace Need More Change Or More Stability?

Interview with Ronald Fry

iStock:JamesBrey
iStock:JamesBrey

Does the prospect of more change leave people in your workplace groaning? With the rate of technological change now outpacing people’s ability to adapt, it’s easy to appreciate why people have started longing for more stability when it comes to the way we work.

But will more stability mean that your workplace gets left behind?

“Stability and change are not the opposite of each other,” explained Professor Ron Fry when I interviewed him recently, “but have an interconnected and interdependent relationship that needs to be considered in order to minimize people’s sense of uncertainty.”

To limit the sense of disruption that change brings within an organization, Ron suggests that it can be beneficial to locate the values, or other things, within yourself or your workplace that are changeless, and that you can hold on to while other things around you are shifting.

For example, in order to minimize people’s sense of uncertainty as changes are unfolding in your workplace, Ron recommends trying:  

  • Being mindful of your language – the way you talk about your reality can have an impact on how you and your organization view change. Consider how you can use verbs rather than nouns to describe the change process; for example, “changing,” “teaming,” and “structuring.” This shift in language can help you remember that nothing is ever really fixed, and free you to manage the complexity of situations and engineer change with fluidity. This can create a feeling of ongoing stability, and help you to embrace the process of changing, rather than fearing it.
  • Asking generative questions – what you ask determines the reality you see and create. When your questions focus on what is not working, you can find yourself stuck in a dysfunctional narrative, but when you ask appreciative, generative questions that help you to see old things in new ways, you can create a more functional narrative about your organization. For example: “What’s working well?” “How we are hoping to build upon our strengths to make a positive difference for others?” “What are the three smallest actions we could take, that would have the biggest impact over the next month?”
  • Amplifying and elevating strengths – invite people from inside and outside your organization together to ask, “When do we have an impact on humanity’s greatest challenge?”. By working with others towards your common purpose, you can create stronger connections and collaborations that can help knock down functional silos, improve processes, and increase innovations. Creating these mental images of a higher and larger purpose shapes your behaviors.

How can you create more stability in your workplace as people continue to navigate change?

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