|One of the confusions about systemic change is that it is not very visible. Often critical transformations can take years to be established. Instead of an immediate and recognisable revolution, the old system starts to fail. Things go wrong and established solutions no longer work very well. The levers of control are pulled, but there is no response. Crises become more frequent. Competent managers become defensive and demoralised as their skills seems to be increasingly irrelevant. Around them, eccentric experiments blossom and die and blossom again somewhere else. There is a general restlessness in human affairs. All of these are, arguably, the symptoms of systemic change.
If that is the context, how does any competent management respond? Following a 2008 talk given to two different oil companies in Alberta, Canada, Barbara Heinzen drafted a short paper identifying six skills for managing systemic change. First, there is the skill of developing new habits of mind: learning how to let go, how to redefine worth, prestige and value, how to be comfortable with ambiguity and uncertainty. Second, there is the skill of experimenting, both internally and through engagement with very different peoples and organizations on terms of equality and mutual respect. There is a third skill in recognizing new competitors who are testing innovative businesses, ideas and philosophies because these eccentrics may be harbingers of the future. More mundanely, there is the skill of defining new management norms suited to surviving systemic change, including the skill of learning how to share information in order to perceive new patterns and opportunities. Finally, there is the skill of understanding the limits – and uses – of control.
These six skills are described in more detail in the draft paper Six Skills of Systemic Change. There are probably many more than six skills, but this group is at least a good start. More are likely to be identified as Barbara Heinzen's consultancy practice moves into meeting the challenges of systemic change.