The field of social justice work has seen flux and changes. How should consultants navigate change in their work? What does good change management look like in this line of work? Converge encourages fellow social justice consultants by sharing five pieces of advice regarding change management.
Tip #1. Get Comfortable with Discomfort
Change management can be challenging in any field, but managing organizational change around work that involves the ethics of both equity and justice often demands conversations, actions, and policies that challenge many of the common norms and practices in workplace culture, in addition to challenging dominant social norms predicated on traditional power structures. Investing time to develop the skills of active listening, emotional intelligence, and interrogating one’s own power and positionality across your organization can help equip your teams to navigate uncomfortable situations, enable personal, professional, and social growth, and mitigate against typical responses to discomfort such as defensiveness, dismissiveness, or withdrawal.
Tip #2. Create A Culture of Continuous Learning
A healthy workplace culture should be one that enables personal, professional, and social growth. Within social justice consulting, however, this is paramount given the ever-evolving nature of the field. As narratives change and as marginalized voices are brought into our understanding of equity and justice, our understanding of what “social justice” means changes as well. While we can always look back to our values as a guide, how we act out those values will not always be the same; responding in ways that align with the needs of marginalized communities, and that speak truth to power in the present, is paramount.
Tip #3. Practice Radical Imagination
At Converge, our value of radical imagination doesn’t just apply externally to the world we wish to create. Practicing radical imagination also means thinking beyond what is already known and practiced as a way to navigate change or reimagination. When we can reimagine change, we can be open to possibilities of using the same models and methods we’ve used in the past. In other words, trying to do the same things as before may make change management more difficult. Often, starting from scratch, looking to examples outside your field, or other creative exercises can unlock the solutions you’re seeking.
Tip #4. Tap into Inclusive Leadership and Agency
Strong organizations are full of leaders at all levels. Not only is it important to cultivate leadership for improving all manner of functions that work toward your mission, but being “leaderful” can be a great asset for navigating change. Tapping into your colleague’s imaginations and ideas and giving them the agency to act and lead in the best interests of their teams or projects can lead not only to better outcomes from change management, but a better culture of trust and interdependence. Be advised that “more cooks in the kitchen” will necessitate deliberate and ongoing spaces to share and collaborate so that the brilliance of all those involved can be given the time and space to shine.
Tip #5. Embed Collective Action and Thought
Organizational change is more challenging when team members feel disconnected and haven’t yet “bought in” to the process for change. Even with the best plans and intentions, change can become harder to navigate and implement if the collective voice and perspective of your teams are not present at the table. While it may seem more complex, including specific ways that your team members can take part in shaping the change process can make for a more innovative and responsive form of change management. Not only is it important to empower others to give input in the change process but also to encourage collaboration and collective action at all levels and in whatever configurations make most sense for the changes. Creating teams that work on the change issues in which those team members are most passionate is not only motivating for those individuals but naturally creates more buy-in and accountability for whatever changes come as a result of their work. Too often, individuals get left behind when big changes occur. By fostering a culture of collective action, organizations are better positioned to “bring everyone along.”
At Converge, we take pride in navigating change with care rooted in our values of racial and intersectional equity. Change is often challenging, but with the right process, your teams can come out stronger in the end. Contact Converge today and see how we can help take your company or organization to its next level.