Generating Momentum In Organisational Change

Generating Momentum In Organisational Change

Momentum is a word often bandied about in relation to organisational change. In my experience it is often used when momentum is absent; i.e. after any effects of the initial launch have worn off and a change initiative has stalled. Executives will then mistakenly suggest activities like a re-launch in order to generate momentum. It is obviously a desirable quality in any change, and I know when it is present because a change seems to be driving itself and does not need to be continuously poked and prodded.

In trying to produce a more scientific definition of momentum I remembered that I actually studied Physics at university and there found all the guidance I needed.

Momentum 101.

In physical terms momentum is the product of mass and velocity. This means that if you want momentum you need to take mass and move it (which requires acceleration which you get a result of “force” acting upon the mass).  Good old Newton you may say “but how does this relate to organisations”? Well, the mass you are trying to move is the organisation, specifically the people that make up the organisation and their movement is in the form of changed behaviours.

Our experience it is easier to take a smaller mass and get it moving quickly (think of a bullet from a gun) and let this permeate the rest of the organisation than it is to move the whole organisation at once.  Another physical quality of momentum is that, in any closed system momentum it is conserved; this means that unless you introduce some energy into the system (think of the gunpowder driving the bullet) it will not move and therefore change.

So what lesson’s can we take to our organisation from the physics classroom?

Generating momentum involves identifying and engaging the key influencers (and their networks) within an organisation and getting them up to speed first. They will then bring the rest of the organisation along with them. Speed and a sense of urgency is critical, especially during the early stages of change, this means getting a critical mass of the key people moving (i.e. displaying the desired new behaviours) as quickly as possible.  As previously mentioned energy is required and while much of this can be unleashed by the key influencers it is the role of the leaders in an organisation to introduce and drive the change. The place to do this? From the front and by modelling the desired behaviours and energy.

All of this may now seem self-evident, but when has common-sense ever been common?  If you look at John Kotter’s   “8 Steps of Effective Change” you will see many linkages, specifically  step 1  Increase urgency, step 2 – Build the guiding team, step 4 Communicate for buy-in,  step 5  Empower action  &  step 7  Keeping at it.

Energy (and expertise) can also enter the system/organisation from the outside and this is where Serious Consulting can help – we have been implementing large scale change in large organisations for over 20 years and we are rather good at it.

Posted in Change Management