External Scan – Leading Change

My visual model for change represents what I found to be shared sentiments about successful change, based on my conversations with peers, an interview with a leader, the readings in unit two, as well as some established models of change. This post will review how my readings, conversations, and personal philosophies have shaped the visual depiction of a successful model for change.

Ultimately, I believe that successful change in digital learning hinges on a heightened emphasis on understanding, collaboration, organizational readiness, and agility. Weiner (2009) states that “organizational readiness as a shared psychological state in which organizational members feel committed to implementing an organizational change and confident in their collective abilities”. This definition underpins my focus on readiness and change at the individual level.

During my external scan, I met with an established learning leader, who has worked in a wide range of corporate learning contexts, but presently specializes in leading digital change in the aviation industry. Our discussions touched on the tools and attributes that she commonly leveraged to influence and support change, but primarily focused on the most significant change of her career, influencing change in a post-trauma workforce (Airline Learning Leader, 2022). The COVID-19 pandemic required her specific aviation employer to abruptly terminate the employment of 70 % of it’s workforce (Stephenson, 2021). As of January 2022, through a combination of pandemic recovery efforts and a revised business model, approximately 60% of those furloughed employees have been hired back. While the airline was able to bring these employees back to work, their work environment was now amid substantial, and perceptively catastrophic change. The leader noted specifically “change was required for the airline to survive, but employees had already endured so much change, that we had to rebuild their trust and capacity” (Airline Learning Leader, 2022). This act of rebuilding first was the airlines “ethical responsibility to the organization and the workforce” (Biech, 2007).

To implement change and support the workforce, this leader implements a model of change that closely resembled the Kubler-Ross change curve, with a substantial emphasis put on the human condition in addition to the strategic or operational needs that are catapulting the change. Anticipating the apprehensions and fears of stakeholders (in this case, employees), and proactively developing resources to support them as they experience, and later embrace change also aligns with my personal belief that change requires buy in from those who change is being thrust upon. As noted by Christina Jones, where there is open communication and collaboration, “change can be championed by anyone at any level of the organization” (Jones, 2022, 4:51). Chad Flinn (2022) also touches on this human factor while describing that through the change process, leaders need to recognize that intuitively, stakeholders may be reluctant to change, but a leader’s job is to empower them to recognize that they are smart and capable, and they can own a piece of the change process.

My model also speaks to a leader’s ability to pivot during the change process and being vulnerable enough to acknowledge where a change may not look as originally anticipated. The emphasis on open communication and transparency allows for the discovery of multiple perspectives, and the opportunity for our inherent bias to be identified and adjusted. Jones (2022) also spoke of this ability to pivot in her change leadership experience. Had her organization not sought perspectives other than those of the change initiators, would they have realized the technology limitations of their customer base and adjusted their plan appropriately?

My change visual represents what I believe to be a further refined version of Lewin’s model for change (Biech, 2007). Where Lewin’s model is simple and not prescriptive, I believe that the stages of unfreezing, changing, and freezing requires further prescription. Unfreezing is a process that occurs through the first two stages of my model, understanding and learning. Instead of microwave defrosting, we must allow change to thaw naturally, through consultation and a focus on listening. The change process then takes place during my build, adapt, and transition phases, narrowing in on maintaining relationships, open communication, and a willingness to pivot. Lastly, Lewin’s freeze stage mimics my reflect stage. Like the unfreezing process, I believe through my experiences and through my external scan that the closing of change is a slow and flexible process; it does not freeze overnight, but through careful and cautious reflection, continuing with the spirit of collaboration and a willingness to understand and embrace further change. The landscape of digital learning and our increasingly digitized workplaces is constantly changing, and leaders wishing to implement or lead successful changes in these worlds require the capacity for empathy, vulnerability, and the awareness that change is a collaborative venture that requires investment and understanding from all involved and/or impacted by it.

References

Biech, E. (2007). Models for change. In Thriving through change: A leader’s practical guide to change mastery. Association for Talent Development. https://royalroads.skillport.com/skillportfe/assetSummaryPage.action?assetid=RW$1544:_ss_book:22651#summary/BOOKS/RW$1544:_ss_book:22651 

Flinn, C. & Harrison, M. (n.d.). Interview with Chad Flynn: Unique Challenges [Audio Podcast Transcript]. In Voices. Welcome to LRNT 525 – Leading Change in Digital Learning.  https://malat-coursesite.royalroads.ca/lrnt525/files/2022/02/Chad-Transcript_Matched-to-audio-clips.pdf

Jones, C. & Harrison, M. (n.d.). Interview with Christina Jones: Unique Challenges [Audio Podcast Transcript]. In Voices. Welcome to LRNT 525 – Leading Change in Digital Learning.  https://malat-coursesite.royalroads.ca/lrnt525/files/2022/01/Christina-Transcript_Matched-to-audio-clips-1.pdf

Stephenson, A. (2021, January 8) Westjet announces more layoffs, route reductions in response to federal COVID-19 test requirement. Calgary Herald. https://calgaryherald.com/business/local-business/westjet-announces-more-layoffs-route-reductions

Weiner, B. J. (2009). A theory of organizational readiness for change. Implementation Science, 4(67). https://doi.org/10.1186/1748-5908-4-67

One thought on “External Scan – Leading Change”

  1. Hi Paula, thank you for sharing your perspective on change and also provide the ones from the learning leader you met. You touched on a point that I feel is not as covered as it should be in my own experience and it is the issue of vulnerability. I found that the focus of the change is too often on the system or technology implementation with little attention on the emotions and feelings involved, especially when it impacts jobs and future employment. In your field, what have you be exposed to or done in terms of addressing these sentiments of vulnerability? I would love to have your perspective on it.

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