Several years ago, I had the pleasure of taking an intimate 6-month program on leading systems change.  The intensive sessions were led by Edie Seashore and Michael Broom, two well-known ‘gurus’ in the field of Organizational Development.   At one of the very first sessions, a participant from a large, bureaucratic government agency asked Edie why the senior leadership wouldn’t listen to him and his ideas for change.

She looked at him and responded quickly and matter-of-factly:
“If you want to informally influence change in an organizational system, you usually have to be accepted by the system first.”

That sentence has resonated and rung in my ears ever since, and has been a mantra for me when my impatience with internal barriers to change arise.  It reminds me to take a pause and reframe things so that people know that I understand their reality.  It also reminds me to be patient and persevere.

Influencing a system doesn’t just come from using all your knowledge and ideas and ‘telling’ people the ‘right way’ and showing them how their way is ‘wrong’.  It comes from first demonstrating that you fully understand and respect the context, intent, norms, values, challenges, and strategy currently existing in the system itself.  When you demonstrate that understanding, you can then begin to frame your language and change strategies so that people in that system will hear them.

So here’s a simple action for you today.  Think about Edie’s advice.
What do you need to do immediately to apply it with a system you are trying to influence?