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The Flow System™: An imperative for those working in change.

26 September 2023

Change Management

As someone deeply passionate about change and its intricacies, I’ve been reflecting on the tools and approaches that truly resonate in today’s volatile landscape. Enter The Flow System™ – which I believe is indispensable for anyone championing change.

First off – gave you heard of flow systems? Flow systems in change programmes are great at providing structure and guidance, which mean that change activities and resources can be managed efficiently.

Complexity thinking can be integrated into flow systems to help give a more nuanced understanding of how change unfolds in complex environments. The ‘complexity helix’ encourages ongoing assessment, sense making and adjustment of change strategies as the programme progresses.

The term ‘helix’ is often used in change programmes to describe a process that is cyclical or iterative, where various components or stages of the programme are refined or revisited. The concept of a helix highlights the idea that change is not sequential, but needs continuous feedback, adjustments, and learning.

1.       Complexity Thinking Helix: The old linear models no longer cut it. Change rarely happens in a neat, straight line, but the ability to just let go and see what we know to be true is hard. We need a fresh perspective. This helix gifts us with the ability to navigate through the unpredictability and ever-evolving challenges that change can bring and helps us try to master the art of embracing uncertainty.

2.       Distributed Leadership Helix: Modern change isn’t a solitary endeavour – it’s a collective movement. Gone are the days of top-down mandates. For meaningful change to take root, decision-making must be distributed across the network. This helix highlights the power of connections with those closest to the work and most central to decision making, which facilitates faster adaptation and fuller integration.

3.       Team Science Helix: Change is as much about human dynamics as it is about strategy. By delving into the heart of team dynamics, this helix offers insights into optimising collaboration, setting teams up in the right way dependent on the context and the problem that you are trying to solve, and fostering environments where innovation thrives.

So, why is this so pivotal for those in the change arena?

  • Customer-Centricity: At its core, The Flow System is anchored in delivering value for customers. As we steer organisational change, our compass should always point towards enhanced customer value.
  • Swift Adaptability: The system promotes rapid value delivery and a compressed time to market. In the world of change, speed is of the essence – but not at the cost of quality or integrity.
  • Innovation-Friendly: By shedding non-essential activities and processes, organisations can free up bandwidth for creativity and set the stage for ground-breaking solutions.

I have to credit this thinking to Brian Rivera, John W. Turner and Nigel Thurlow who wrote the brilliant book, ‘The Flow System: The evolution of Agile and Lean Thinking in an Age of Complexity’. Their insights really are essential reading for those of us in the trenches of organisational change.

For me, The Flow System™ is a call to action, a chance for us to start to be honest about the reality we find ourselves in. The future of change is here, and it’s flowing!

By Mick Brian, Head of Change & Transformation at CMC

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