Verbeteren, veranderen, vernieuwen…

De aanleiding voor mijn schrijfsels ligt meestal in de dagelijkse adviespraktijk. Ook nu. Onlangs maakten collega Rob en ik kennis met een vertegenwoordiging van een mogelijke klant. Het was duidelijk dat er zaken anders moesten, maar hoe en wat precies bleek behoorlijk lastig te duiden. Was verbeteren (en daarmee de huidige context in stand houden) voldoende? Of was vernieuwing nodig (en mocht de huidige context ook ter discussie)?

Ik hoor het regelmatig in klantorganisaties: moet het alwéér anders…? Achter zo’n vraag zit natuurlijk een hele wereld aan ervaringen, beelden, wensen, etc. Doe ik natuurlijk niets aan af. Maar inderdaad: vaak moet het alwéér anders. We zien vanuit Het Zuiderlicht veel organisaties met een vergelijkbare wens: wendbaar, adaptief, resultaatgericht, flexibel organiseren. Met als achterliggende wens om uiteindelijk niet steeds opnieuw te veranderen, maar om continu te kunnen schakelen.

Als een organisatie werkelijk die ambitie heeft, dan vraagt dat vrijwel altijd het ter discussie stellen van de huidige situatie en organisatie en na durven denken over het verleggen van grenzen. Zowel op persoonlijk vlak als in de organisatie. En daarmee komen we dan eerder uit bij vernieuwen dan bij verbeteren.

Het is essentieel om voor de start van een verandertraject ruimschoots stil te staan bij de wijze van veranderen en de aanpak die voor de specifieke situatie nodig is. Zoals hiervoor genoemd: gaat het om verbeteren of om vernieuwen? En zelfs als de ambitie vernieuwen is, kan dan niet toch worden volstaan met een aantal kleinere verbeteringen? Want soms is het medicijn erger dan de kwaal… Met een bevriende arts heb ik hierover de vergelijking gemaakt met het stellen van een diagnose en komen tot een behandelplan, metaforen die in de advieswereld vaker worden gebruikt. Soms helpt niets doen ook!

Bij verbeteren blijft in principe de huidige situatie in stand en wordt daarbinnen gewerkt aan optimalisatie. De gewenste situatie kan redelijk goed worden uitgewerkt, oplossingen zijn vooraf min of  meer bekend. Processen, werkwijzen, systemen, etc. worden herzien waardoor er effectiever en/of efficiënter gewerkt wordt. Er wordt vaak planmatig, lineair en wat meer top-down gewerkt, waarbij eerst een oplossing (blauwdruk) wordt uitgewerkt, die daarna wordt ingevoerd (geïmplementeerd). Hierbij past meer de projectmatige dan de procesmatige veranderaanpak.

Als we het over vernieuwen hebben, dan hebben we het vaak ook over ontwikkelen en tegenwoordig vaak ook over transformeren. Oplossingen zijn niet direct voorhanden. Er wordt eerder circulair/iteratief dan lineair gewerkt, waarbij het probleemoplossend (of verander)vermogen van de organisatie op participatieve wijze wordt aangesproken. Medewerkers en leidinggevenden zijn actief betrokken bij hun eigen toekomst. Gedurende het veranderproces ontstaat steeds meer richting, waarbij de gewenste situatie ook langzamerhand tot stand komt. Hierbij past dan meer de procesmatig dan de projectmatige veranderaanpak.

De praktijk is overigens vaak niet zo zwart-wit: ook een mengvorm van beide benaderingen is mogelijk, waarbij meestal wel een van beiden de boventoon voert. Bij grote organisaties kan het zelfs voorkomen dat in verschillende onderdelen verschillende benaderingen worden toegepast. Maar ook dan helpt het uiteindelijk enorm als er wel een duidelijke, collectieve richting is. Wat natuurlijk geen pleidooi voor ‘one-size-fits-all’ is!

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