Artful Transformation (Conscious Agility) and Viral Change

In Viral Change (The alternative to slow, painful and unsuccessful management of change in organizations) and Homo Imitans (The Art of Social Infection: Viral Change in Action), Leandro Herrero of The Chalfont Project and Viral Change describes Viral Change, “the orchestrated creation of an internal epidemic of success”, “a way of creating real change in real life with real people and now” and “not yet another form of change management or another formal corporate programme”, which is “not just a methodology, but a concept of organization and a way of life.” “We treat change as a social infection, not as an indoctrination.”

This worldview is very potent! I am very fond of Leandro Herrero’s statement:

A consultant that can’t facilitate visceral and sustainable
cultural change in 6 months is not worth the money!

Viral Change is described as five disciplines that are orchestrated using a roadmap. The five disciplines are “the pillars for the orchestration of social infections”. The Roadmap is a “tool to orchestrate the combination of skills, ingredients of Viral Change and pace or sequence of events.”

How does Viral Change relate to Artful Transformation (also known as Conscious Agility)?

(click figure to enlarge)

Artful Transformation and the Five Disciplines of Viral Change

The book introduces the five components of traditional change management:

  • Change attitudes and mindsets
  • Hierarchical influence
  • Organization chart channels
  • Facts, directions, traditional communication channels
  • Top down command and control leadership

The book explores the five disciplines of Viral Change:

  • Behaviors (small, non-negotiable set) (Obsessive focus on behaviors): The first discipline is behavioral change management which is well-anchored in traditional behavioral sciences.
  • Influence (peer-to-peer social copying) (Choosing influence that can scale up): The second discipline of Viral Change is influencing. However, this is not about just any kind of influence, it’s about ‘scalable’ influence. Or in other words, it’s about how to create a fast buildup of the social infection.
  • Networks (designed informally) (Taking care of informal social networks): It is no longer a question of ‘acknowledging’ that informal networks exist. The real issue is now mastering them!
  • Stories (social reinforcement, step success) (Stories: creating a new narrative): Stories are quite memorable, especially when compared with the average life cycle of a bullet point. Stories are a wonderful mechanism of social reinforcement.
  • Leadership (distributed, backstage) (‘Backstage’ leadership): The fifth discipline of Viral Change is mastering distributed leadership. This is a new model of leadership which is far more complex, powerful and influential than the traditional leadership-of-the-organization-chart.

The Behaviors discipline relates to the Framework of Phase I, Enactment of Phase II, and Enactment of Phase III of Artful Transformation.

The Influence discipline relates to the Nucleus of Phase I, Enactment of Phase II, and Enactment & Communities of Practice (CoPs) of Phase III of Artful Transformation.

The Networks discipline relates to the Nucleus of Phase I and Communities of Practice (CoPs) of Phase III of Artful Transformation.

The Stories discipline relates to the shared stories within the Nucleus of Phase I and Communities of Practice (CoPs) of Phase III of Artful Transformation.

The Leadership discipline relates to leadership in the Nucleus of Phase I and Communities of Practice (CoPs) & Oversight of Phase III of Artful Transformation.

These disciplines relate to fostering a Wholeness mindset (The Art of War – Wholeness) across Phase I, II, and III of Artful Transformation.

Artful Transformation and the Viral Change Roadmap

The book emphasizes that “Viral Change can be described as the orchestration of the five elements” or disciplines as:

  • A process of designing and engineering the combined power of behaviors, scalable influence, informal social networks, success stories and formal leadership’s move to backstage.
  • An implementation of change focused on achieving predetermined objectives.
  • A way of life in the organization … with the distinctive accent of:
    • Behavioral focus: translating as much as you can into visible behaviors
    • Peer-to-peer influence: banking on the power of the connected/influential people regardless of their social GPS on the organization chart
    • Informal networks: switching emphasis towards the informal conversations versus the formality of teams and meetings
    • Stories: putting storytelling at the core of accelerating the new narrative that the ‘new’ organization needs
    • Distributed leadership: exercising the richness of ‘leadership outside the charts’, not at the expense of formal leadership, but by giving the later a backstage support role

The book emphasizes that “although the roadmap is visually sequential, the reality is less so, with frequent overlap between phases” and further emphasizes “the outcomes achieved (needed to achieve) at each phase” as well as the “highlights of activities usually hosted by each phase”:

Discovery phase
Principal desired outcome: a full change strategy blueprint in place. To do this, we need the following elements: ‘Visioning’, Behaviors, Mapping influence, Model of infection, and Leading.

Development phase
Principal desired outcome: all things in place and ‘project managed’, ready to call in the champions. … Stakeholder management, Champion’s pool, Top-down non-viral framework, and Project Management.

Engagement phase
Principal desired outcome: a community of motivated and informed champions has been formed. Management at all levels is engaged in supporting. … Champions’ first conference and Backstage leadership.

Diffusion phase
Principal desired outcome: new behaviors spread and visible changes in place (at a different pace). Progress is tracked. Stories of success are broadcasted to the organization. … Champions in action, Non-viral communication campaign, Management support, New critical masses, Stories, Champions’ community supported, Tracking progress, and Review points.

Sustain phase
Principal desired outcome: changes are stable in a desired way. Aspects of the strategy may be re-directed. Viral Change is becoming (as become) a ‘way of life’. … Adjustments and re-focus, Tracking progress, Review points, Extended learnings, and ‘Viral Change inside’.

The Discovery, Development, and Engagement phases of Viral Change relate to the Context phase of Artful Transformation.

The Diffusion phase of Viral Change relates to the Foundation phase of Artful Transformation.

The Sustain phase of Viral Change relates to the Evolution phase of Artful Transformation.

Artful Transformation and Viral Change

In the chapter “Viral Change cannot fail (it can also fail)”, the crucial question “Does Viral Change work?” is addressed.

As a method, yes, if the principles are applied correctly.

As a journey, it is up to you how much you want to discover, challenge and open your eyes and windows to a new reality.

As a way of life? Viral Change will be a good life or a bad life depending on you.

Fundamentally, Viral Change and Artful Transformation are readily aligned around core concepts and human nature!


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