A new book on organisation change—written by three SBE alumni—presents the process of deep change as an adventure. The book, Engage! is written as a travel guide for change agents. The emphasis is on making connections and learning to learn.
The authors—SBE graduates Woody van Olffen (1993; PhD 1998), Wouter Visser (2004) and Raymond Maas (1995)—say that thinking about organisational change as a targeted, organised process is outdated, and instead must be entered into with a spirit of adventure and acceptance that things might not always go exactly as intended. Wouter and Raymond are full-time senior change process consultants at AMI Consultancy; Woody is full professor of organizational change at TIAS School for Business and Society of Tilburg University.
“Deep change is an adventure and should be considered as such,” van Olffen says. “Superficial change is a like a ‘trip along the coast’, whereas deep change can be compared to true discovery travels—such as those of Columbus or James Cook, who were inspired by vision and ideas to go out, see what happens and learn along the way. That’s what’s needed for a real collective learning experience that generates transformation. With shifts in identity and values.”
Throughout the book, practical examples accompanied by vivid illustrations offer insight into the type of attitude that is necessary to keep organisational change on track despite unexpected pitfalls.
“With deep change, you really need to reinvent yourself. For instance, when a firm needs to switch from a product-focus to a customer focus,” van Olffen says. “That’s a far deeper change than a new product introduction, a re-organisation or even international expansion: those are ‘coast trips’. Change is ‘deep’ when it requires changes at the level of identity and values in order to be successful. This also explains why it so often fails.”
The book is based on both science and practice, because the authors want to bring the worlds of theory and practice together more. “There’s a lot of knowledge out there in practice and there is a huge world of theory and research around organisational change,” van Olffen says, “but the connection between the two is very often absent. And the two worlds tend to speak a different language. With this book, we try to close this gap. We hope to provide change agents with inspiration and tips as they go through their own adventure”.
This connection between theory and practice is most visible in the ‘Change Canvas’ that works as a guiding compass for these change adventures. It is a practical model based on the most critical elements needed at the start of a (deep) change journey. It helps to stimulate the dialogue between key players and to make the design of change journeys a fun and creative co-creation.