Building momentum through networks

perspectives Apr 11, 2018

The work of cultural transformation is deeply complex with a great deal of uncertainty and ambiguity. While it is essential for any transformation to be championed and role modelled from the top, it also requires a strong network of people at multiple levels within and across an organisation to be able to sustain significant change. This article identifies how you can build momentum through developing a powerful network of advocates.

One of the underlying principles of the Adaptive Cultures approach is the need for leaders and culture practitioners to seek out and create networks of passionate advocates to work cohesively and effectively in guiding cultural evolution. For any of us who are passionate about creating more humane, effective and contributive organisations and social systems, the journey can be lonely, tiring and relentless. In order to sustain ourselves, holding the work with others is essential.

Below are 5 key insights to help you to build momentum for change through building and engaging with networks:

1. Identify the passionate advocates

For cultural evolution to be genuinely sustainable, it is essential that people in all different roles, parts and levels within an organisation are advocates of the new world.

Cultural evolution is often driven by changing requirements of the external world (market dynamics, customer expectations etc.) coupled with dissatisfaction with current ways of working inside the organisation.

To identify possible advocates is an important first task. Some ways to do that include:

  1. Identify the potential executive sponsors and senior leaders who are deeply respected in the organisation
  2. Identify those who influence the executive directly / have influence across the organisation. For example, leaders who are potential successors to those in executive roles
  3. Consider people who you have had a direct connection with who have expressed a passion for the topic, demonstrated an understanding and an ability to be part of a larger change. The could also be people who can have a voice or influence in their own function
  4. Consider those who express concerns in a constructive way
  5. Access your networks to see who they would suggest and act with discernment regarding these suggestions

Top tips:

  1. Passionate advocates may present as people who are highly energised about creating change, or highly cynical or dissatisfied with current ways of working. Our task is to identify a range of voices who can become advocates for the new world, not just the voices who are loudest or most “positive”.
  2. In our experience, there are often unheard advocates at mid or junior levels of the organisation who have passion, energy and understanding to share. Consider how you might seek these people out through organisational communication, processes or forums. You may also consider inviting applications for participation in these networks to the entire organisation.

2. Build a shared understanding of the journey ahead

As the group is established, an essential step is to enable the network of passionate advocates to share their collective insights to build a shared understanding of the organisational system.

This creates alignment of intention, and an opportunity for the network to feel part of a community who can support and sustain each other, rather than lone voices.

New perspectives on the system can emerge as people listen to each other and challenge their own and others points of view.

To ensure a worthwhile and effective conversation, consider establishing some principles for working together. This will enable all voices to be heard and for a learning environment to be established.

3. Develop the capacity of the network

We know that the personal growth and development of culture leaders and practitioners is essential in successfully influencing culture. Consider ways to enable development of the network and how to create developmental partnerships within the network.

How can the group deepen their capacity to individually and collectively influence the organisation or social system?

Scaling successes and learnings

Part of developing capacity is the critical role the network can play in sharing successes and challenges. What is essential is to harness the learnings. What have we learned about this part of the organisation’s readiness to embrace the transformation required? Is this unique to this part of the organisation or is it likely to influence other aspects? How do we need to think and work differently in order to achieve a different outcome?

4. Think politically – utilise existing organisational forums or structures

As a leader or culture practitioner, building momentum through networks requires letting go of being the sole practitioner or heroic leader and instead, building capacity to influence indirectly.

To influence indirectly requires a shift from a vertical, hierarchical mindset to a horizontal partnering mindset. It is likely that there are already forums or initiatives that can support culture work. Rather than creating a program of work outside the system (which can often polarise or be rejected by the system), consider how you can work with and enhance what already exists.

Culture work is alchemical. We need to use the current materials in the organisation and apply a different level of consciousness or wisdom to them to produce a different outcome.

5. Engaging a network beyond the organisational boundaries

There are many ways of engaging people beyond organisational boundaries who will have a valuable perspective on the change needed by the organisation. This can include, but not be limited to:

  1. Organisational Alumni – people who have moved on to other organisations but have experience and perspective that may be useful
  2. Providers, customers and suppliers – people who observe and experience working with your organisation and how wonderful or painful that may be relative to other organisations
  3. Mentors, coaches and culture practitioners – people who have experienced and observed the change in other organisations, and can share insights on what it can take to overcome obstacles and build momentum

We would love to hear your perspective:

What steps can you take to identify, nurture or co-create with networks of passionate advocates in your world?

If any of this article resonates with you and you can observe some of these challenges in your organisation, then you may be interested in the Adaptive Cultures community. The community of practitioners are actively exploring many of these themes within their sphere of organisations, and actively developing ways and means to respond and adapt.

Adaptive Cultures are holding our first European Practitioner Accreditation in August 2018. You can find out more here: Accreditation

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