Managing Disruptive Change

Instructor: Wayne Visser

As Margaret Mead said, ‘The only person who likes change is a wet baby’, to which Hunter Lovins added ‘and the baby squalls all the way through the process.’ So change is never easy. And yet, we have been engaged and effected by change since time began. In business, as first the industrial revolution and then the information revolution transformed the landscape, various strategies, tools and techniques have been employed to minimize the risks and maximise the opportunities that change inevitably brings. Through this course, we will describe how change is catalysed in society through individuals and spreads to groups. The types of individual catalysts vary from incremental to transformative, as do the collective processes of change, from evolutionary to revolutionary. We will also explore how change typically happens in organisations, from old-style command-and-control rule, through managerial plan-do-check-act systems, to innovation-and-diffusion and emergent-intuition approaches. We investigate the idea of change agents as ‘champions’ and looks at what their characteristics might be. And we conclude that although we have some ability to shape our world and to make change happen, unwelcome change (such as climate disruption) will also increasingly happen to us. Hence, five strategies for resilience are explored, namely defend, diversify, decentralize, dematerialize and define.

Course Learning Outcomes

By the end of the course students should be able to:

  1. Imagine and analyze future options by using scenarios and other techniques.
  2. Map changes in society using the twelve facets of the Meta-change Matrix.
  3. Evaluate change initiatives using tools like Theory U, Ainger’s Matrix and Beckhard’s Formula.
  4. Identify different types of change champions, from experts and facilitators to catalysts and activists.
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