Paradox, Ambiguity & Ongoing Change

The overall purpose of an ongoing perspective is to develop a consistent, relational, effective and robust approach to working with change that is shared across the workplace. The intention is to support all leadership roles within the workplace when enabling/managing change – providing opportunities to deliver operational excellence, sustain quality relationships and enable people to do their best work, whilst honouring the vision, purpose and values.

Clearly an organisation’s approach to ongoing change can’t be taken for granted. Its models, tools, practices and specific change initiatives must be held in an overarching approach that provides context for specific elements and cycles of change that work in ongoing complexity and uncertainty.

We believe that a shared approach that integrates an overall perspective with the values and desired culture of the workplace will be an important contributor to effectively working with planned and emergent change.


Paradoxes are the continuums that we balance between; constantly adjusting our positions as change unfolds. Some examples:

  • Trust more and control less (Workplace of Tomorrow, p32)  . . .this is a subtle relational dance which responds to context . . . With a shared compelling vision and a clear purpose in place, employees are encouraged to self-organise and self-manage to reach common objectives. In these cases, working from a set of guiding principles and shared values, not controls or indeed targets, has increased both quality and productivity.

  • Balancing the ‘antifragile’ (Taleb – things that gain from disorder and/or stress) with resilience and fragility
    • Things the gain from disorder and/or stress
    • No guarantee that things will remain consistent based on past history – smaller releases can relieve the pressure
    • The need for redundancy (eg. moving from just-in-time to just-in-case)
    • Managing the difference between something being difficult and strengthening versus something being difficult and damaging (should you be ‘pushing through’?)

  • Control – imposed (something outside your control) vs planned (initiated by you )
    • Loss of control and making meaning
    • Messiness and the spaces in-between
    • Reminder that people resist loss rather then change itself

  • Encouraging emergence while ensuring some consistency
    • Balancing emergence with the need for continuity and boundaries
    • Balancing some certainty with continuity provides the ability to shift and be open to new ways
    • Boundaries and limits as a source of creativity
    • Balancing the light touch of curiosity with our uncertainty in ongoing change
    • Balancing our willingness to be open to emergence, complexity, and ambiguity with the consistency we need through our knowledge and know-how
    • Balancing disruptive innovation and sustaining innovation (making the best even better – evolution) and disruptive innovation (transformation and radical reinvention e.g. starting at the bottom of the marketplace outside existing business models
      (Clayton Christensen, also Innovator’s Method, N. Furr, J. Dyer)