Theory-U and Remote Organizational Change Management (Part 1)

Let’s say that you are on a global transformation program where you are changing behaviors and organizational design in a technology driven project that is in a Deploy/Execute phase.  Given it is a global transformation for an enterprise of 50,000+ employees, you are likely to find remote regions of the world that will require change management.  These regions can be regions, countries, functional units or anything else who probably have a level of autonomy in their way of working which has created its own unique culture.  In a project of this nature, you simply cannot have an OCM resource for each and every single remote region, especially if you have 10+ regions part of the overall program.  So what do you do?

  • You can have a central OCM team and have them fly out to each site and stay for extended periods of time.  (Expensive)
  • You can hire resources for each region locally. (Expensive)
  • You can try to do OCM remotely from your central project location knowing the region will not see the true value of change management and will likely result in poor adoption (Cheap yet will be expensive for the region in the long run)
  • Or you can try to leverage Theory-U and OCM together to deal with remote regions while maintaining a central OCM function.

You are probably asking, “What is Theory-U?”  A definition from

“When leaders develop the capacity to come near to that [a] source [source of why they are changing], they experience the future as if it were “wanting to be born”— an experience called “presencing [the new way of working/desired state of change].” That experience often carries with it ideas for meeting challenges and for bringing into being an otherwise impossible future. Theory U shows how that capacity for presencing can be developed.”

Theory-U uses five movements within the ‘U’ structure. In essence we take individuals from one behavior and coach them to go into the next behavior by understanding their own sensibility to change and emotions.  The mental and emotional movements based on

  1. CO-INITIATING: Build Common Intent stop and listen to others and to what life calls you to do
  2. CO-SENSING: Observe, Observe, Observe go to the places of most potential and listen with your mind and heart wide open
  3. PRESENCING: Connect to the Source of Inspiration, and Will go to the place of silence and allow the inner knowing to emerge
  4. CO-CREATING: Prototype the New in living examples to explore the future by doing
  5. CO-EVOLVING: Embody the New in Ecosystems that facilitate seeing and acting from the whole

As you can see, the evolution of the human mind goes from understanding the “as-is” to the “to-be” to the “your expected role in the future” to “living the future”.

The next question to ask yourself , how can these movements within Theory-U be applicable to an organizational change and transformational program?  We have to ‘evolve’ the movements to something more pragmatic which can resonate with stakeholders more from a practicality point of view and less ‘motivational speak’.

Here is a model that has been used by an excellent OCM resource from Switzerland I have had the pleasure to work with, modified the Theory-U movements to a practical approach over the course of a three day workshop following the “U” model:

  1. Understanding historical patterns
  2. Alignment and Value of the Change
  3. Visualize existing processes
  4. Demo of the new tool/process
  5. Day in the Life of
  6. Self Expectations Alignment

In my next article of the Theory-U series, I’ll define the movements above and provide how they can be used.

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