Change Activism

“Change Activism” has been a handy if hard-to-use phrase to help me frame how I view change in an organizational context.[1]

We invite teams to try simple practices that make it easier for them to change actively, on-purpose, and informed by user data. When these practices work for teams, they stick. When they stick, we find that people will invite their peers to try the practices, creating a movement to change within a large organization.

We know that better ways of organizing exist. They're more productive, more fulfilling, more just.

Saying they're incompatible with enterprise-scale organizations misses the point.[2]

The real issue with scaling responsive organizing models is that they all require new capacities that haven't been developed in most people – change and org development are luxuries reserved for Corporate, not necessities required at the front line.

So we leave center-dictated design campaigns to others, and instead focus on context-rich,[3] opt-in[4] learning – knowing that the practices we bring to teams activate their capacity for change, strengthen it, and that the good news will spread through organic and intentional connections within the organization.[5]

  1. I feel like "Activism" is an overreach, and "Activation" feels clinical. So I don't use this phrase a ton, but... maybe it's good? ↩︎

  2. Ethan Bernstein, John Bunch, Niko Canner, Michael Lee, "Beyond the Holacracy Hype", July/August 2016, Harvard Business Review. So many thoughts about this article. I'm no advocate of Holacracy, but I know executives are dismissing even the thought of self-organization after skimming it. I'm sure that wasn't the authors' intent, but hey, unintended consequences! ↩︎

  3. This video on the inanity of strategy, and the importance of mapping, will probably change your mind on a few things. ↩︎

  4. A couple (few?) years ago, I went to a Holacracy Practitioner Training in Las Vegas with Jordan. A few of us at the training had a really bad experience, particularly with the (at the time) closed-source-ness of it all. Through one of the people at the training, Robert Richman, I met this guy Dan Mezick. Dan has tweeted at length about his issues with Holacracy (TL;DR it built on Sociocracy but only lightly references it, takes an open-source thing and makes it closed, is typically driven by a leader's mandate versus popular consent), which makes for good fun if you're into org-dev-model-drama... but the important thing I learned from Dan is the shift from mandate to invitation. Shit changed my life, for real. Check out his new stuff here. ↩︎

  5. I think the best case scenario is that we as August never get to participate in intentional org-design or development... ever. Instead, my hope is that context-specific models emerge within organizations, and that we offer coaching and facilitation to those that are helping these models emerge. The fallback, where we are actually doing the designing, is better for our bottom-line but worse for our purpose. ↩︎

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