Change Management and OD Solutions: Can’t be Solved with the Same Thinking that Created Them.

Often, organization change management and OD practitioners are parachuted into the throes of a rapidly flowing change initiative with limited information.

They must navigate the landscape to define, develop, and deploy solutions which align with the business impact of the change or intervention. Whew! A tall order for any practitioner by any stretch of the imagination.

Organization change management initiatives or OD interventions may require a new approach to solve issues created with current thinking as you navigate through the organizational landscape. The landscape may be full of seen and unseen obstacles, along with limited resources and time constraints, so actions will require a sharp focus to drive the outcomes.

Albert Einstein said it best, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” Are you applying the same thought processes to solving your current organization change management or OD problems or have you incorporated new ways of thinking to solve those problems?

Game theory could help expand your solution portfolio to generate new solutions to address your current organizational problems. You may ask why Game theory?

Game theory also called the theory of social situations, is rooted in mathematics; however, its approach to real world problems are proven in many disciplines such as business, economics, etc., so why not apply it to the people side of change?

Most game theory models involve the following five conditions:

1. Each decision maker has two or more choices or sequences of choices (“plays”).

2. All possible combinations of decisions or plays result in a clear outcome: win or lose.

3. The scenarios have a well-defined outcome, and decision makers receive a “payoff (the value of the outcome to the participants). That is, participants will gain or lose something depending on the outcome.

4. The decision makers know the rules of the game as well as the payoffs of the other decision makers.

5. The decision makers are rational: when faced with two alternatives, players will choose the option that provides the greatest benefits.

Options to Leverage Game Theory for Organization Change Management and OD Practitioners

Structure the solutions, so the organization profits from a highly collaborative strategy which will provide the most benefits for the organization. Benefits realization should be the ultimate goal and all key stakeholders value the rewards equally.

Stakeholders review those collaboratively created solutions for risk and solution misalignment. Misalignment of solutions can create differences and those differences need to be addressed before full deployment of the solutions.

Look at all possible outcomes strategically as it relates to cost, opportunity, benefits, and other key performance indicators to determine how these dependencies compete for resources and create solutions that are practical, easy to deploy, and efficient.

Review the pain points as they relate to the organization change management or OD intervention. This way you will have a clearer understanding of their potential impact on the organization, risk associated with those pain points, and reactions to those pain points (current and future state).

Make sure the new approach you decide to use resolves your current organization change management or OD problems (new thinking). You have to let the solutions set and cure before moving to other problems. If not, it’s likely you are introducing the same thinking and creating more chaos, which can increase the risk and disrupt the flow.

Evaluate your solutions often to validate your original thinking and resolve your current problems identified through the strategic review of solutions. Use non-traditional tools to drive organization change management or OD approaches because both are iterative and dynamic processes.

Being parachuted into the middle of a fluid organization change management or OD situation then tasked with delivering everything quickly (limited time) is a very steep learning curve. Anchoring yourself as quickly and deep as you can will help provide direction.

Be honest and realistic with your organization sponsor because it does take a reasonable amount of time to define, develop, and deploy those new solutions. Time is always the great equalizer because time waits for no one as the next big organizational change or OD intervention is already on the horizon.

The fact is organizational change management and OD is challenging work which practitioners deliver around the world in tough situations every day. Continue to leverage traditional organization change management and OD tools and methods, but start looking at and using non-traditional tools to create new thinking and solutions. Because the thinking that created the problems, can’t be same thinking to move the organization forward.

Brandenburger, Adam M., and Barry J. Nalebuff. Co-opetition. New York: Doubleday, 1996.

Davis, Morton D. Game Theory: A Nontechnical Introduction. New York: Basic Books, 1970.

Fischer, Stanley, and Rudiger Hornbusch. Economics. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1983.

“It’s Only a Game.” Economist, 15 June 1996, 57.

Johnson, Robert R. Elementary Statistics. 3rd ed. MA: Duxbury Press, 1980.

Mathews, Ryan. “Let the Games Begin.” Progressive Grocer, April 1997, 25.

McDonald, John. The Game of Business. New York: Doubleday, 1975.

Poundstone, William. Prisoner’s Dilemma. New York: Doubleday, 1992.

Warsh, David. “Game Theory Plays Strategic Role in Economics’ Most Interesting Problems.” Boston Globe, 24 July 1994.