Change as an inkblot

Change as an inkblot

The circle of control of managers, regardless of their level is often confined to a specific team, unit or division. These limits can have both positive and negative effects. Working with a smaller group allows you to gain a more in-depth knowledge of all the people involved. However, no team exists inside a vacuum. It is part of a bigger system – the whole organisation – that influences the behaviour and the subculture of a group.

As a coach or change manager I’m lucky enough to be in contact with several people within an organisation during my projects. This provides me with a broad view. Having that overview over the bigger system allows me to see when this system jeopardises the required changes within the individual teams.

When something like that happens, you can combine two approaches:

  1. Focus on the circle of control of your team.

Try to determine how the team can focus on activities that are entirely under your control:

  • How do they interact with each other?
  • Which meetings to have?
  • What KPI/SLA’s to follow up?
  • What internal processes to improve?

This approach will need some persuasion because it requires honest self-reflection, and perhaps cause some of the team members to divert blame for ineffectiveness. Therefore it might help to make them see the similarities between what they disapprove of in other teams and their behaviour. Likely there is room for improvement on both sides.

  1.  Broaden the circle of influence of the team, like an inkblot.

Invite outside stakeholders to team meetings to explore possible improvements or share best practices, and use data to show the impact of other teams on yours. Make it as visible as possible. Then, your team can work together with other groups or stakeholders to improve the situation. It’s vital they work on such matters together and find common ground with solutions they both support, so frame the intent carefully in advance to avoid an us-versus-them situation. 

By approaching change in your team this way, it can become an expanding inkblot with a lasting imprint on the organisation. 

Do you agree with this approach, or do you prefer a different one?


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