3 ways to adapt to changes in your organisation

Change as play: intention, precision, intuition

By Jaap Boonstra & Francisco Loscos

In organisational change, intention, precision and intuition reinforce each other, and all three are necessary to effect change. Intentional change is linked to desire, courage and passion from the heart.

When thinking about change in a precise way, you use your head and the available knowledge. Intuition helps you recognise patterns and organise your teamwork.

1. Intention 

Profound change is based on a valuable ambition and a shared vision for the future. Intentional change involves exploring and explaining the external and internal context and visualising a desired future.

Intentional change develops in interaction. The players involved explore the external and internal dynamics together and share their experiences. It is an interactive process of exploring what is at stake: envisioning an enticing image of the future, developing an approach to change that will make that future possible, acting to effect changes and innovations, and learning from them.

Players who intentionally change are not averse to risk

In this continuous interactive process, the players reflect with each other on their work practices, mutual interactions and potential for change: players who intentionally change what they stand for see complexity as a challenge and dynamics as a space for innovation. They are determined, cooperation-minded and not averse to risk. 

Together they create a picture of the role and meaning of their organisation and they examine how the organisation’s culture can reinforce that image. This is nicely expressed in the book Citadelle by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: 

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.” 

2. Precision 

Changes do not get under way without players who are committed and prepared to make an effort to do the job. Everyone can take the initiative and ask others to participate in the change. Changing and innovating organisations require intensive teamwork from players who share ambitions; profound change requires precision.

Photo: You X Ventures/Unsplash

Players who make an impact on change know that there are innumerable change management principles, strategies and forms of play that can be used to move forward and achieve results. 

Precision in change entails the skill to develop a consistent play concept and choose a combination of change strategies and well-chosen activities that reinforce each other. 

Involving players in the change also requires precision and is a process of deliberation, in which players are involved, motivated and informed. In essence, it centres on understanding the change dynamics, analysing the change options and deciding which change strategies will be used. 

Profound change requires precision

Precision in thinking about change processes and acting on them requires time to consider and reflect on how the process is progressing and how it affects others. It can help to have the reasoning behind the change tested by others by running decisions past people who look, think and act differently. 

By sharpening your own observations and having a play concept tested by others, you can arrive at a well-considered approach and create a context in which change can thrive and be influential. 

Precision in change requires thinking, playing around with dilemmas, estimating and deciding, time and again, what works in each unique situation. Here too, a nice quote is applicable, this time from Paulo Coelho in his book Warrior of the light: a manual

“The two worst strategic mistakes to make are acting prematurely and letting an opportunity slip; to avoid this, the warrior treats each situation as if it was unique and never resorts to formulae, recipes or other people’s opinions.” 

3. Intuition

Profound change is not just about passion for a future and precision in working out how to realise that future. It is also about intuition: crystallised, often subconscious, knowledge and experience are used in change. 

Intuition helps you interpret play patterns, weigh play concepts, choose play forms and organise interaction. Initiators and change agents take initiative or are asked to participate because they fit in well with the ambition of the play, are ready and able to make a contribution and invest their time, and have people skills and a strong network.

Intuition can help you recognise motives, emotions, uncertainties and hopes

The interaction develops informally rather than formally. This is a good thing because the people involved will be working together and experiencing exciting situations for some time.

Intuition can help you recognise motives, emotions, uncertainties and hopes in the undercurrent of change. Once subjective observations and considerations play a role, intuition becomes important in creating context and impact. 

Intuition is knowledge that is in a hurry and rarely deceptive. Undercurrents in change are not easy to analyse, but they can be recognised and are visible. One approach is to combine the subjective images and experiences of players in the change. This can be done by organising workshops about a change process, where everyone tells their story with their own metaphors. 

Intuition is also about knowing your blind spots and listening to your own feelings. It is based on tacit life experience. By looking at events and yourself in relation to others more broadly and profoundly, it becomes possible to understand and deal with issues differently. One more quote, this time from Albert Einstein: 

“Man, surrounded by facts, permitting himself no surprise, no intuitive flash, no great hypothesis, no risk, is in a locked cell.”

The ideas in this short article are based on knowledge insights published in: El cambio como interacción estratégica (Barcelona: Profit Editorial, 2019) and Organisational change as collaborative play (Amsterdam: Management Impact, 2019).

All written content is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license.