“To practice leadership, you need to accept that you are in the business of generating chaos, confusion, and conflict.”
– The Practice of Adaptive Leadership: Tools & Tactics for Changing Your Organization and the World, by Ronald Heifitz et al
Technical change can be successfully executed with knowledge, skills, and expertise that already exist within the organization. The problem to be solved is clear, the solution can be provided by an expert, and resolution comes relatively easily. Technical change requires management.
Adaptive change requires an organization to think differently, question the status quo, and, in order to be successfully executed, it often requires a paradigm shift. The problem to be solved is hard to discern, the solution requires new learning and thinking, and that solution cannot be provided by the leader or expert – in order to be lasting, it must come from within the organization. Adaptive change is not easy. And it is often messy. Adaptive change requires leadership.
I was introduced to this model of change in a leadership seminar that was built around Leadership on the Line: Staying Alive through the Dangers of Leading by Ronald Heifitz and Marty Linksy. If you are leading through change, and I believe we all are, I encourage you to check out their work. For me, it has been incredibly useful as I seek to continually learn and grow as a leader.
Learning to recognize technical and adaptive challenges, and lead accordingly, is essential for success – and sometimes it is hard to tell the difference.
Just after I came on board as Director, I started a process with staff to review and revise our key policies and procedures. One area we attacked was our fines and fees schedule and borrowing limits. In my mind, this was a technical challenge – we needed to lower our fines, raise our borrowing limits, streamline our fee schedule, and abandon outdated borrowing policies. No big whup, we’d knock it out in an afternoon meeting. Continue reading “50 More Shades of Change”