Newsletter No 7. March 2008

It really is starting to look like spring and we are looking forward to longer days and more sun! At this time of year we think about our garden and growing things… perhaps it is useful to take that as a metaphor for growing and developing our organisations.

In this newsletter we share a bit more about change in organisations and hopefully some useful thoughts to help you to get your head around leading changes in your own organisation. We specifically look at a model for defining what sort of change is needed (and therefore what kind of tools and interventions you might like to use) and also at the difference between emergent and structured change.

In this issue:

The LASA Team

Latest thinking

Organisational Change – keep it simple

Organisational change can be challenging, frightening, daunting… but it can also be exhilarating and wonderful.  It is never the same – you are always learning whether as a beginner in leading change or as someone with more experience.  Each time, even with the ‘same’ group of people, it is different. 

Everyone knows change is inevitable, we just wish it would happen to someone else.  Change in organisations, likewise!  And the worst of it is when the change is imposed from above and we must toe the line.  Bearing that in mind, when you are leading change it is good to remember how you feel about being told when it happens to you.  Think about how you would like to hear and experience whatever intervention you are thinking of making and let this help you to make your choice(s).

In our experience, there are three basic kinds of change:

  Kinds Of Change

Systemic Transformational Change

Targeted Change Management

Transition Assurance


How can I make this organization more effective?

How do I implement this new recognition system?

How do we make sure the new VP gets on board quickly?

Ambiguity & Complexity

Very High


Low to Moderate

Focus of Change

Whole system

Specific system

Individuals and groups

Time Frame for Results

Medium to Long Term

Current Year

Next Quarter

Type of tools to use

Mostly Emergent


Mostly Structured

�Worley and Lustig, 2004

Each change needs different handling and – as you can see – has a different time frame.  And each different type of change will require you to use methods from a different place on the change continuum.  With Transition Assurance you can use quite structured methods while with systemic transformational change, you will need to use emergent methods to be successful.  However, even with whole system change, there will be parts that can be done in a structured manner – it needn’t all be emergent.

Structured Mixed Emergent

�Lustig 2006

This may all sound like gobble-de-gook so let’s give you an example of each.  A structured tool is something like doing a stakeholder map and then making a communication plan (say using a spreadsheet) for each stakeholder on the map.  In the plan it indicates who will communicate with the stakeholder, in what way and when.  It is useful to also indicate where the stakeholder is with regards to the change (traffic lights are useful here: green for on target, orange for needing some work and red for caution – needs a lot of work).  This is a tool that can be followed up easily, is easy to control and get to grips with.  When you start out working with change, structured tools are easy to learn and use.

On the other end of the spectrum are emergent tools.  These are tools which can be used with large groups.  You have very little control – you can set the scene, you can focus the group but what comes out is likely to be what the group has energy around.  These methods can be uncomfortable to use and are much harder to learn because you have to let go and let the group’s will take over; you don’t have as much control of the outcome as you do when you use a more structured method.  The benefit of using this type of tool is that the participants feel as if they have more of a say, as if they are equal participants in sculpting the change.  They are deciding what they will do to achieve the change – they have input.  They are co-creating their new future together with their leaders.  This is a powerful way to make change sustainable and to keep energy and motivation up.

If ambiguity and complexity are low, it is easy to get what has to happen clear in your mind.  If it is high, you may not even be completely sure what has to happen or how.  It will emerge over time.  What is happening short term may have bits that are clear to you, but others that are not yet clear.  You choose your tools accordingly – horses for courses, as they say. 

Most changes require some mix of the two.  The leader of the change needs to be able to assess which tool is required for where you are in the lifecycle of the change.  For change to work, you need to constantly monitor what is happening – it goes through an iterative cycle which is neither linear, nor necessarily following a particular order.  We find the plan-do-check-act cycle from W. E. Deming useful:

The Deming Circle

When you are checking – monitoring – you can see what your next moves need to be and decide just how structured/emergent you can be and therefore what sort of intervention you need to look for.

We find that approaching the change from a state of enquiry helps.  You’ve all heard the old saying ‘Assume’ (assumptions) makes an ‘ass’ of ‘u’ and ‘me’?  Particularly when you are working at the emergent end of the spectrum, asking questions, checking assumptions, entering dialogue and discussion with an open mind are helpful in moving you forward and maintaining people’s momentum.  Most people feel at risk with a change, so the change leader(s) has to be super careful not to put any obstacles in the way of people’s participation.

And of course you know to communicate, communicate, communicate – in any and every way you can.  All the interactions you have need to be related back to the vision of what things will be like when the change is in place.  Help people to understand their part, how they fit in, what it means for them.  If you are discussing solutions to a business issue, talk about how each will fit (or not) with the bigger vision of the change.

We are passionate that change need not be toxic and that by learning to lead change in a respectful, thoughtful way, you can make it successful and sustainable.  Keeping things simple and using some simple tools and models such as those outlined above can help you.  Good luck!

�Patricia Lustig, 2008

Latest Books

The Paradox of Control in Organizations

Philip J. Streatfield

This is a book which tells the story of change within a pharmaceutical company. Philip Streatfield started out in SmithKline Beckman and then went through several changes as the organisation merged with others, starting with Beecham in 1989. He analyses what happened, what worked and what didn’t. He also poses some theories to make sense out of what happened. It is a book about self organisation and emergence – lots of different people, each acting on their own area, but as part of a larger whole, producing an overall pattern and change that no individual could have foreseen.

It particularly focuses on the illusion of control in organisations. We think we control most things, but in fact this is not true. The world is ordered, but control (in a simple sense) frequently does not rest with any one person or part of the organisation.

It is a fascinating read and I found much to reflect on and much that resonates with my own experience.

HR Corner

How well balanced are you at work?

"Ten years ago, we started the debate on work-life balance…the next stage is to incorporate work-life balance with work-health balance" Alan Johnson, Health Secretary, stated at the recent British Heart Foundation ‘Well at Work’ Conference in London.

The Government is urging employers to promote the health and wellbeing of their staff. Are they encouraging employers to be kind and considerate - or is this about 'the bottom line' - for employers, for the NHS and the budget for Incapacity Benefit?

Did you know that, according to Department of Health statistics published in February 2008:

  • 175 million working days are lost every year due to ill health, according to a CBI estimate
  • 36 million of these are lost as a result of occupational health
  • �13 billion a year is the annual cost to UK businesses
  • �600 million a year is the amount of money which UK businesses lose as a result of back pain
  • 17 days a year, approximately, is what a sufferer of back pain will take off work
  • half of those employees suffering from back pain who are signed off from work for six months or more return to work
  • half will not return to work
  • quarter of those signed off for a year or more will return
  • 9/10 of those employees who come on to incapacity benefit want and expect to return to work
  • Back pain, neck pain, depression, heart and circulatory problems are the main reasons why employees start claiming incapacity benefits.

As well as promoting health and wellbeing the emphasis is on employers managing sickness absence, focussing on stress and mental health and getting people back to work from long-term absence and tying in closely with recent changes in Disability and Age Discrimination legislation.

How well is your organisation managing this balancing act?

Jill Lang CFCIPD

People Potential - helping employers with the 'people issues' in their business

Interesting Links

Sunset over Solent February 2008 Photo – � PMLustig Sunset over Solent February 2008

Latest News from LASA

  •  Our company charity this year is Practical Action – Technology Challenging Poverty,. We put the money that we would spend on sending Christmas cards into the charity and give when we reach our quarterly targets. To find out more about them see:
  •  We continue to do work in the area of Strategy Development and Scenario Planning and at the end of last year, Tricia was asked to be an Associate at SAMI Consulting. See the link below.
  •  Our Nepal business has won a contract with CARE Nepal to run a Leadership Development programme this year - based on Leading Self (Emotional Intelligence) and Leading Teams -  which is integrated into the organisation using Action Learning.
  •  We continue our work developing the Virtual Learning Commons for use with our Change and Leadership programmes.


"To speak ill of others is a dishonest way of praising ourselves" - Will Durant

"The past is a place of reference, not a place of residency" - Willie Jolley

"Good communication is not how much you talk, but how well you listen." - Gabriel Gonzalez from his mother

"In some cases we learn more by looking for the answer to a question than we do from learning the answer itself." - Lloyd Alexander

"Everyone has a ‘risk muscle’. You keep it in shape by trying new things. If you don’t, it atrophies. Make a point of using it at least once a day." - Roger Von Oech

"When obstacles arise, you change your direction to reach your goal; you do not change your decision to get there." - Zig Ziglar

"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit." - Aristotle

"Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or the present are certain to miss the Future." - John F. Kennedy

" I am enclosing two tickets to the first night of my new play; bring a friend.... if you have one." -- George Bernard Shaw to Winston Churchill

"Cannot possibly attend first night, will attend second... if there is one." -- Winston Churchill, in response.

Joke corner

The Washington Post's Mensa Invitation once again asked readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition.

Here are this year's winners. Read them carefully. Each is an artificial word with only one letter altered to form a real word. Some are terrifically innovative:

1. Intaxication: Euphoria at getting a tax refund, which lasts until you realize it was your money to start with.

2. Reintarnation: Coming back to life as a hillbilly.

3. Bozone (n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.

4. Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period.

5. Giraffiti: Vandalism spray-painted very, very high.

6. Sarchasm: The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it.

7. Inoculatte: To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.

8. Hipatitis: Terminal coolness.

9. Osteopornosis: A degenerate disease. (This one got extra credit.)

10. Karmageddon: It's like, when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it's, like, a serious bummer.

11. Decafalon (n.): The gruelling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you.

12. Glibido: All talk and no action.

13. Dopeler effect: The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.

14. Arachnoleptic fit (n.): The frantic dance performed just after you've accidentally walked through a spider web.

15. Beelzebug (n.): Satan in the form of a mosquito, that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.

16. Caterpallor (n.): The color you turn after finding half a worm in the fruit you're eating.

LASA Website

If this interests you, there are other interesting resources on the LASA Insight website so why not take a look by going to

Comments and Feedback

If you have any comments or feedback on - or suggestions for - this newsletter then please email them to us  here

@Patricia Lustig 2008