Change from the Bottom up LO5324
3 Feb 1996 14:01:08 CST

Replying to LO5284 --

>From the literature it appears that most enduring change in the
private sector begins and is driven by the very top of the
organization. This may be. I have no direct experience.

I do have experience in quite a few public organizations where the process
is quite different. Rarely is a substantial improvement / learning set of
activities initiated by the top person. This is understandable for
several reasons related to the way most top people are selected (including
elections), their perceptions of leadership and the regard others in the
organization have for them.

Change strategies are ususally initiated in the middle of the organization
and go through several stages (1) Initiation (2) Pioneers operate within
their sphere of traditional authority (3) Top people provide rhetorical
support often prompted by outside examples. During this staage, the
pioneers broaden their actions but front line supervisors and workers
provide little reciprocal activity. (4) When the top management changes
(relatively often, as the system is designed), it is up to the top ranked
civil servants to decide what will be the fate of the change activities.
If they conclude that the change activities are better practices, the
organization knows that the practices will continue and front line support
grows. It then can become part of the culture of the organization.

It further appears that several self-organized learning processes
including national (First(1993-Columbia SC), Second (1994-Little Rock AK)
and Third (Minneapolis MN) States Quality Forums) and state
(1989-95-Minnesota Quality Conference) efforts are learning and growing.

While most folk will be discouraged this year as they focus on primaries,
negative advertising and the like, new models of change and leadership are
emerging in the public sector. They give me some additional hope.

Further information on the above thinking and happening is contained in
the Journal for Quality and Participation December issue article "The
Fourth Revolution in Government Change" by the undersigned.

It does not appear to be "bottom up" as much as "middle out". As it
progresses, though, it can touch everyone.

Joe Sensenbrenner
Sensenbrenner Associates, Inc.
818 Prospect Place
Madison WI  53703
(608) 251-3100
Fax 251-3181