Organizational change involves not only the technical — but the personal

 

It’s often said that life is a rollercoaster, trundling between obstacles and successes. CGIAR is embarking on its own ups and downs as the One CGIAR transformation officially takes hold. There will be successes, and a strong, more impactful organization will be born. But we also expect some twists and turns. As we move down this track, we should consider the words of change management expert Steffen Weber, delivered at CGIAR Excellence in Breeding’s (EiB) recent Virtual Meeting  2021: “there’s no way to get the wrong change right, but a thousand ways to get the right change wrong.” 

 

Weber argues that this is not just the case for EiB — but also for the entire CGIAR’s change management approach. Broad changes don’t just affect organizations per se but also teams and individuals. Like an ecosystem, change seeps into different areas of our lives — including the realm of our jobs.   

 

The lessons Weber laid out can help us better ensure the CGIAR and NARES (National Agricultural Research and Extension Services) system gets the right change, right: 

 

Steffen Weber describes the six levers for change that need to be considered all together to ensure willingness and ability to change on the personal, the social, and the structural level. 

 

Recognize that transformation is personal 

Weber noted that “every transformation is personal.” That means everyone working at an organization will have to ask the following questions: Why should I change? And can I operate in the new setup? Hence, One CGIAR starts with an individual’s perception which stretches to the team level where everyone influences other team members. On the structural level, the organization has to ensure that desired behaviors are amplified and that employees and teams can perform in the new setup. Leadership starts at the personal level and plays a key role on all levers. For example, the organization should ask: “How do we ensure the environment (equipment, infrastructure) is configured to support people to operate in the new setup?” But they must also focus on the person and ask: “How do we ensure s/he is trained on new capabilities and can operate in the new culture?” 

 

Build effective communication  

Effective change communication entails listening and broadcasting and is the fuel for successful stakeholder engagement. For instance, the EiB team aimed to overcome obstacles by introducing more holistic relationships with partner breeding programs. With fuller relationships and enhanced engagement, the team then used surveys and conversations to learn better ways to support partners. They then set about continually improving meetings, templates, training, and resources. The EiB example highlights the need for an organization to tackle both technical and behavioral change, as both factors are integral to transformational change.   

 

Build effective change leaders  

For an organization's leaders to master behavioral and technical change properly, they need to ask tough questions such as: “What will be the cost of not enforcing behavioral change?” This question reveals the severity of how individuals and teams may not realize the consequences of not changing. Leaders need to acknowledge and understand that change can be scary. People need to acknowledge that it's okay not to see the light at the end of the tunnel right away. Despite the challenges, leaders should “encourage self-reflection,” says Weber.    

 

Build effective change teams  

It is important to keep transformational changes well-structured when existing structures are disrupted. Being strategic about systematic collaboration is more than just setting up the right hands-on team and embedding the teams into your organization. But, ensuring the quality of decision-making while supporting your teams will be crucial to ensuring that your change management process runs smoothly. For instance, Weber worked with EiB to build a new structure to improve design and delivery of the Enterprise Breeding System (EBS). EBS is introducing changes beyond “just software.” In support of improving genetic gain, the new software will trigger and require new ways of team cooperation. Weber made sure that the people undertaking the EBS transformation were well integrated into the program organization and were assigned specific responsibilities. 

 

Be strategic about competency development  

First, assess what your organization’s competencies are. This results in the next step — defining target levels for each role operating in the new setup. Not everyone needs to be an expert. Therefore, conducting a careful assessment ensures that training resources are designed and used efficiently and that individuals will not be swamped with irrelevant training. A competency assessment can identify and quantify the gap between current competencies and proficiency levels and the organizational needs in the new setup. With Weber’s help, CGIAR-NARES Cassava Breeding network within the NextGen Cassava project did just this to develop a scalable management system for market-oriented variety development. The resulting report will help International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and NARES partners define an optimal, need-driven training strategy.  

 

And…accept uncertainty 

Change means launching into the unknown. Change can be scary stuff. The One CGIAR transformation requires admitting individuals’ fears about structural change. Acknowledging emotions can not only help accelerate One CGIAR but also create a better “society.” One where change management isn’t just about the technical but also about the personal. Therefore, accepting uncertainty invites new opportunities that challenge the status quo of how we face the One CGIAR transformation.  

 

It’s an exciting time for CGIAR. And an uncertain one. But by applying the principles outlined here, breeding programs across CGIAR and NARES are poised to bring breeding to the next level. Change isn’t just coming. It’s here! So let’s manage it right. 

 

More info: 

  • Watch Steffen Weber’s Asia/AM Africa session here 
  • Watch Steffen Weber’s Americas/PM Africa session here 
  • Get more info about EiB’s previous 2021 Virtual Meeting here 

References:  

  • PATTERSON, K., GRENNY, J., MAXFIELD, D., MCMILLAN, R., & SWITZLER, A. (2007). Influencer: the power to change anything. 

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Story by Misha Nicholas, EiB Junior Communications Consultant revised by CGIAR Consultant and Weber & Fritz Consulting Owner, Steffen Weber. This story reflects the information and views of the authors or quoted individuals only. EiB and partners are supported by CGIAR Trust Fund Contributors and the Crops to End Hunger initiative, via the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, GIZ, BMZ, USAID, UK Aid, ACIAR, and other partners. 

 

*The first photo's source is: HealthDay