Change Management



The toolbox for systemic Alpine development contains the following tools:

  1. Organisational Learning
  2. Stakeholder Platforms and Innovation Co-Operations
  3. Model Moderation & Mental Models
  4. Participatory Project Progress Monitoring
Further Readings & Links

1. Organisational Learning

adapted from SENGE (2003)

According to SENGE (2003) the corner stones of a learning organisation are systems thinking, "personal mastery", shared vision, team learning, and working with participant’s mental models.

Systems Thinking
This discipline binds the learning organisation together and links the four other abovementioned disciplines collectively into a whole. Within this discipline it is important to no longer just think in linear chains of cause and effect, but to also consider interdependencies and to recognise feedback processes. Within systems thinking every influence is both a cause and an effect. Every element is influenced by other elements, and itself influences yet other elements again. The system should be perceived as a whole.

Personal Mastery
Personal mastery represents the discipline of self-guidance and personal development. People with a high degree of personal mastery are continually expanding their ability to attain those results that they actually truly want to achieve. This discipline encompasses two basic behavioural patterns: one being a regular clarification of one's own vision, the other being to learn to perceive current reality more clearly. These two aspects - "own vision" and "reality" - produce the so-called "creative and development promoting tension".

Development of a Shared Vision
Within this discipline the shared vision, the "all pulling together", stands in the foreground. On the path to a shared vision it is important to encourage the personal visions. These personal visions should then grow together to a combined shared vision. A vision that is supported by all creates a shared identity and awakens people’s willingness to take risks and their eagerness to experiment. By everyone identifying themselves with the vision and also feeling responsible for it, not only is acceptance achieved amongst the participants, but also true commitment and real participation in the realisation of the vision.

Team Learning
The discipline of team learning is understood as a process through which a team continually adjusts and expands its abilities. Within organisations, team learning encompasses three important areas:

  • It is important that the team thinks about complex questions and gains new insights. Teams need to learn that many heads know more than one alone.
  • A need exists for innovative, coordinated action. In good teams, a ‘working trust’ exists: every team member is conscious of the others and can depend on everyone complimenting each other in their actions.
  • Teams play a significant role for other teams, whereby a learning team continually stimulates other learning teams by disseminating the practices and skills gained from team learning.

Mental models
This discipline relates to deeply rooted basic mental attitudes that control and guide our behaviour. Mental models relate to our worldview. It is important that we learn to bring our innermost notions of the nature of things to the surface, to reassess them and to improve them. This is a decisive step on the way to a learning organisation. Because we are usually not conscious of such mental models, they represent a hindrance and we cannot develop ourselves further. Two skills are required to be able to identify mental models:

  • The ability to reflect: relates to our own thought pattern
  • The ability to enquire: relates to behaviour in direct interaction with others

One of the basic tasks of the discipline of mental models is to bring these unknown behavioural patterns to the surface, to make them tangible and if necessary also to modify them. One can only control and change one’s own mental models if one is aware of them. This gaining of awareness of mental models incorporates a learning process that leads to the further development of individuals and the whole organisation.

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The conference proceedings of the Forum Alpinum Conference contain a chapter on the session on transformation processes and one on decision making in landscape management; both include the inputs of various experts in this field.

2. Stakeholder Platforms and Innovation Co-Operations

adapted from HEEB & ROUX (2002)

Stakeholder platform with forest owners, game managers, conservationsits and others in Switzerland (Source: J. HEEB).

Stakeholder Platforms
Stakeholder platforms are social networks that offer participants the necessary foundation and structure (as well as security) for their work and activities. In this context, platforms are understood as loosely structured social networks, in which representatives of a particular action system are brought together and united with respect to a particular set of goals (such as a strategic outline or a landscape development concept).
Platforms prove their value particularly as a basis for communication. Through the support of participatory work methods and through the creation and discussion of the stakeholders’ mental models, platforms make it possible.

  • to achieve a joint understanding of the system,
  • to develop a set of goals (in the form of a strategic outline or a landscape development concept) as the foundation for system development,
  • to build on this by designing tangible project ideas,
  • and to jointly observe and assess development in the action system through the use of suitable evaluation tools.

Work in platforms can also support individual, organisational, and institutional learning processes. Platforms provide for an innovative work climate. The building of trust among the representatives of the different interest groups and voluntary involvement in the work process are important prerequisites for the initiation of new developments. Regionally focused platforms and related inter-linkages among the stakeholders - a spatially defined action system - are beneficial to the realisation of ideas and projects.

Work in platforms can also support individual, organisational, and institutional learning processes. Platforms provide for an innovative work climate. The building of trust among the representatives of the different interest groups and voluntary involvement in the work process are important prerequisites for the initiation of new developments. Regionally focused platforms and related inter-linkages among the stakeholders - a spatially defined action system - are beneficial to the realisation of ideas and project.

The formation of a platform has to meet some conditions:

  • Trigger: Platforms should usually form on the basis of needs and desires of stakeholders (thus “from the bottom up”). Platforms initiated from the outside have poor chances of longer-term survival right from the start due to the lacking motivational base.
  • Decision in favour of the platform: The stakeholders should give clear reasons for their decision to establish a platform. They need to show why this particular organisational form has been chosen and not a different one (commission, project group, or other form).
  • Establishment of a core group: An initial core group (usually consisting of the platform initiators and possibly an external process facilitator (moderator) takes on the task of setting up the platform. This involves formulating initial general goals and issues for the platform’s work, and identifying and contacting possible further platform partners. The core group organises a “kick-off” meeting (see below). During the further work of the platform the core group takes on planning and co-ordination tasks.
  • “Kick-off”: An initial kick-off meeting begins platform activities. At this gathering the stakeholders should meet in a relaxed and communicative atmosphere, such as at a “get-to-know-you” evening, and learn about the aim and purpose of the platform’s work. At the same time it is important that the stakeholders are able to identify how they can “profit” personally from their involvement in the platform. Without a “profit option” it is difficult to motivate stakeholders for longer-term involvement. It is important to develop a basis of trust and security right from the start, which makes it easier for stakeholders to contribute to platform work creatively and without inhibitions.
  • External process facilitators, as outside observers using suitable methods of moderation, can play a significant role by promoting transparent discussion, aiding visualisation of progress and development of the work, and bring hidden problems, fears, or ideas into the open. Moderated meetings allow stakeholders to concentrate on content, and they also convey a feeling of security with regard to the method and progress of the process.
  • Commencement of the work of the platform: Now the actual work of the platform begins. The first step is to work on a joint understanding of system and goals. Mental models and strategic outlines can play an important role at this stage.

The goals and issues initially brought into the discussion by the core group must be developed further by the platform. The individual stakeholders must see themselves as partners in the platform’s vision and develop a "we-feeling" within the whole group.

Innovation Co-operations
The innovation co-operations take on the task of realising the ideas developed by the platform, as well as ensuring the quality of the resulting products and services through the use of suitable quality control tools. They can do this either in close collaboration with the platform or work independently. Innovation co-operations can be set up new or realised through co-operation among existing organisations.

Innovation co-operations, in comparison with platforms, should in particular demonstrate the following advantages:

  • Professional business and project management structures;
  • Planning and securing of the resources for product and service development, marketing, distribution, and the like on the basis of a business plan;
  • Legal and financial protection (for example, through the establishment of a company with limited liability);
  • Guaranteed quality control on the products and services level.

Innovation co-operations should provide the structures required in order to realise the tangible projects. In particular, structures are required for:

  • Organisation and management
  • Finances (fund raising, administration, control)
  • Liability
Stakeholder Platforms and Innovation Co-operations (Source: J. Heeb).

Summary of Important Activities of Platforms and Innovation Co-Operations:

Summary of important activities of platforms and innovation co-operations (Source: J. Heeb).

Team Tuning (adapted from GERBER & GRUNER 1999)
For work and development processes in platforms it is most important to know what motivates the stakeholders to participate in the project, what they wish to bring into the process (input), what resources are available, which results they expect (output) and how the work process should proceed. The "FlowTeam-Method" provides guidance as to how this information can be collected in a ‘getting to know each other’ session.

The stakeholders are invited to add their information to a so-called ‘flow-flower’, as a means of introducing themselves to the group. The completed flow-flower represents an important basis for the further development of the project. It makes it easier to efficiently utilise the existing personal and material resources that are available.

The Flow-Flower (Source: GERBER & GRUNER 1999)

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3. Model Moderation & Mental Models

adapted from HEEB & ROUX (2002)

Model moderation is a methodology that enables participating stakeholders to communicate their mental models (thoughts about the project, the project’s context, the goals, etc.) using a common language, and to develop a shared system understanding that unites the various individual perspectives into a collective view. Through this objective analysis of the mental models, that allows the stakeholders to present their perspective without having to find a consensus or enter into commitments, an atmosphere is created that minimises conflict and avoids the emotional components that usual accompany or even dominate proceedings.

Through model moderation the mental models are represented graphically and thereby made easier to communicate. This procedure creates, in many respects, a solid basis for constructive dialogue:

  • Open books: By revealing the stakeholders’ various mental models, their different perceptions and thoughts, it becomes clear, logical and understandable for all within the stakeholder platform why, whoever it is, displays whatever behaviours and pursues certain interests.
  • Common language: The exchange on the various mental models using a consistent method (see below) promotes a common language.
  • Transparency: This procedure leads to increased transparency in the group. This in turn promotes mutual understanding and trust as a basis for cooperative collaboration.
  • "We-feeling": A common system understanding promotes the feeling of all working together on a mutual project.

Furthermore, systems oriented work also promotes thinking and working in scenarios and simplifies the identification, as well as the handling, of key variables (control variables) and mechanisms of the action system.

The following section describes how mental models can be visualised and made accessible for the work process.

Step 1: The stakeholders work out and visualise their own mental models in groups
  • Determine key concepts: The concepts/ideas/notions that are most important to the stakeholders with regard to the action system are noted on 10-15 pieces of paper (per stakeholder).
  • Create a diagram of interrelationships: The stakeholders explain the key concepts and arrange them (eg. in a flip chart) according to structural interrelationships. It is helpful here to organise the model according to factors relating to context, control, the system and goal monitoring.
  • Tell a story: The stakeholders explain their diagram and give it a short succinct title.
Structuring the Mental Models. The stakeholders organise their thoughts about their action system according to factors relating to context, control, the system and goal monitoring (Source: HEEB et al. 2007).

Step 2: The mental models are discussed

The stakeholders present their mental models to a gathering of all participants. In doing so the following points in particular should be clarified:

  • Which are the key factors and control variables in the system? ‘Where can we act?’
  • Which are the most important functional relationships? ‘ What influences what?’
  • What are the external factors that influence the system, but cannot be influenced by the system itself (basic parameters)? "What controls us?"

The various model concepts are compared and discussed based on the answers to these Questions. Important similarities and differences are identified. This step forms the basis for the development of a shared functional understanding of the action system.

Step 3: Combining the mental models

A facilitating team or the moderator(s) bring together all the mental models into a whole system, a so-called ‘Development Map’. This has basically the same structure as the mental models, so is divided into factors relating to context, control, the system and goal monitoring. It can serve as a basis for the development and assessment of measures intended to change the action system for the purpose of sustainable development.

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4. Participatory Project Progress Monitoring

adapted from HEEB & ROUX (2002)

Continual monitoring of a project’s progress (with regard to process and results) is advisable for successful project realisation. It allows the stakeholders to check whether their work is actually heading in the desired direction, and through this builds confidence. The indicators by which the development process can be measured are determined mutually by all the participants together as an integral component of the project.

Template for participatory project progress monitoring (Source: Heeb et al. 2007).

Revealing and assessing the development process takes place in four steps:

Step 1: Five to ten indicators are determined, based upon which the success of the project can be measured. The following criteria apply to the choice of indicators:

  • The indicator is relevant for evaluation of the action system.
  • It is measurable, or the stakeholders can rate it on a qualitative evaluation scale (eg. very good, good, average, poor, very poor).
  • The indicator is actionable, that is the stakeholders can influence the indicator variable through their actions.

The monitoring of project progress can take place, on the one hand at the higher whole project level, on the other hand also within possible sub-projects. Since the development of cooperation is itself a success factor of working together, the indicators should also relate to the participatory process itself, for example to the degree of shared system and goal understanding, or to the level of commitment of participants.

Step 2: Undertake assessments in three timeframes:

  • How do you assess the situation, based on the chosen indicators, before the start of the process (past state)?
  • How do you assess the situation now (present state)?
  • What situation do you strive for (desired state)?

The comparison of past and present shows development that has already taken place; the comparison between the present and desired states shows what steps are still necessary. The steps forward are visualised in the process profile.

Step 3: Explain the "past-present" comparison

  • How can the identified changes, or non-changes, be explained?
  • To what extent are these changes, or non-changes, linked to the project?

Step 4: Explain the "present-desired" comparison

  • Why are the identified changes, or non-changes, being strived for?
  • Under what conditions could the goals be achieved?

Project progress monitoring can be undertaken on numerous occasions during the cooperation process. Each stakeholder’s assessment (steps 1-4) is discussed and evaluated as part of a collective meeting. The individual assessments can be combined to an overall assessment and used as the basis for the adjustment of current projects or the development of new projects.

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