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Formulating Direction for Change

In the previous section we considered this question: “Why are we motivated to change something?” The determination, dissemination, and acceptance of change values (i.e., beliefs, philosophies, and principles) are the irst steps in any orderly change process. The goal of those steps is to develop a shared purpose in the organization that includes the leaders who are the originators of the change. Once the shared purpose is achieved, the change process can move to the next step: “formulating direction.” The formulating or setting of direction for change answers this question: “How do we plan to make the change that the organization's leaders have proposed?” At this stage, the elements or levels of thought are concept, strategy, and design.

Also, as noted in the previous section, developing meaning for change entails fostering the required will among the people in the organization by motivating them to accomplish the change being proposed. This section deals with our necessary preparedness as human beings to make the changes – the “being” state that people must reach so that they can envision and plan the changes.

At this stage, the organization and its leaders are energized – they are willing to change in order to satisfy the organization's fundamental beliefs, philosophy, and principles. Put another way, their values are aligned with
those of the organization so that they are ready to be inluenced to move to the next level of change. How, though, are they to envision that change?

In part one, I introduced the important aspect of leadership that I referred to as future state targets. I also introduced three hierarchical levels that ranged from planning targets to aspirational targets. Planning targets provide a precise future state relating to shorter-term transactional change; and at the other end of the scale, aspirational targets describe a future state where both leaders and followers enjoy considerable freedom of interpretation. An aspiration is a superordinate target, a statement of theoretical perfection; though necessarily vague, it also offers a great deal of choice when it comes to achieving broader and longer-term change. A vision is somewhere in the middle of this spectrum: it is suitable for processes of ongoing, important, continuous improvement of a transformational nature. This kind of change is more often the norm in organizational change. I will use this measure of a future state target in the following description of the change process.


This is arguably the most important step in the change process. In terms of levels of thought, it is at the concept level. At this step, the leaders are proposing a new future state: they are opening the door to a better future and asking their followers to understand what that future will be – to accept it as their own and to do the rigorous work required to implement it successfully. In the simplest of terms, the leaders are saying, “This is the concept for the future, now let's do the thinking and work to get there.”

In the previous section, we focused on shared organizational values; here, the focus has shifted towards shared “beingness” (i.e., togetherness, spirit) among the leaders and followers. Leaders inluence their followers to move towards a better future state by appealing to their shared values and character attributes. Role model leaders are able to engineer and give substance to the future state for which they are calling. The two most common means to this end are vision and mission. Each serves a purpose, and each provides a conceptual view of change – more concretely, a picture of a better place than the current state as seen by the role model leader.

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