Tuesday, December 4, 2007

How to create conditions for changing management styles?

Capacity development is about change processes. How to guide a change process when a top-down management style is obstructing organisational development? What are things to pay attention to as a capacity development advisor in such a context?

If (part of) the objective of the change process is to change the leadership style itself, both the leaders and the followers have to change. Both leader(s) and followers play a part in the leaderships culture within an organisation. Leaders may behave in a hierarchical style because it is expected from them. This means both leaders(s) and followers have to change in order to create a sustained changed leadership style. Personal change and organisational change have to go hand in hand.

This requires from an advisor to develop a very good relationship with the leader(s) built on trust and mutual respect, not an easy task. One way of building that relationship may be to use informal talks and showing your capacities. Building trust also has to do with listening well and responding to the right issues. If you are able to understand an pinpoint some of the key issues in an organization, you will gain a lot of trust with the leadership.

An way of putting leadership styles on the agenda and make it discussable is to organise a conference on leadership and organizational change. The conference could target leaders and at the conference good and bad leadership practice that enhance or retard the growth of organizations can be discussed. The advantage of this approach is that leaders are giving the chance to learn amongst and from other leaders - their peers, which may be easier than learning from a capacity development advisor.

The position of the advisor within the organization also matters. If the advisor is placed within the organization he/she is part of the organogram and placed in a hierarchical relationship to the leadership. This makes it hard to change the system you are part of.

Timing is also important and you can wait for - and try to recognize- windows of opportunity. There might be a moment that the leadership needs you, and then you can be of help en create a positive advisory relationship.

Alan Fowler has summarized 4 pre-conditions for successful capacity building interventions in the newsletter capacity.org of January 2000.
  1. There should be clarity on the question: Capacity for What?
  2. The capacity building intervention should fit with other interventions that are taking place on different levels in the system
  3. The trigger for change should be there: who is the owner of the capacity building intervention?
  4. There should be clarity on the exit strategy: when are we done?

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