Patterns for Change, Part 2October 8, 2010 Leave a comment
Picking up from yesterday’s post, the question I left off with was how do change agents identify and work with patterns in complex human systems where control and predictability are elusive. This is where Holladay and Quade offer up Glenda Eoyang’s CDE Model. This model names three different conditions that change agents can analyze and work with to shift constraints within a system so that it can achieve more optimal fit with (and thrive in) its environment. Below are an explanation of these conditions and examples of what can be done to either tighten or decrease constraints in the direction of more organized or unorganized surrounds.
(C)ontainers: Containers can be physical (spatial layout), organizational (departments and neighborhoods), or conceptual (vision, mission). Decreasing constraints here might look like making physical space more open, encouraging cross-functional teams, and brainstorming new ideas to address emerging trends and complexity. Tightening constraints could include tightening agendas, shortening time frames, differentiating roles and responsibilities, and clarifying goals for greater predictability.
(D)ifferences: Whether relating to style, background, or outlook, differences are what create the texture of a system. They manifest in both number and degree. Focusing on similarity and commonality, such as shared standards and points of agreement, tightens constraints to allow for more efficient operating. Making room for broader perspectives, integrating diverse approaches to problem-solving, and focusing on individual stories helps to expand the responsive capacity in a highly dynamic environment.
(E)xchanges: Whether we are talking about information or other resources, exchanges are the way that a system connects to itself and to its environment. Streamlining and standardizing communications increases constraints in the direction of ordered environments. Opening up communications, making the flow faster and looser, creating more options for people to connect, increasing access to information – all nudge a system in the direction of adaptability to changing conditions.
Constraints here are therefore value neutral and all depend on the surrounding conditions. What change agents can do is look for patterns in these different dimensions (for example, spatial arrangement, openness of discussion, degrees of standardization) to decide whether those are optimal given the bigger story. Then tighten or loosen, enlarge or reduce, open up or close to see how the system responds.