Managing change through inclusive participation


“Nothing about us without us” has become a powerful and popular slogan to express the idea that no policy should be decided on without the direct participation of those who will be affected by it. From Central European political traditions and being used in its English form by disability rights activists, this call has been and continues to be heard in various sectors of society.

In South Africa, we have seen this sentiment playing out in community protests about service delivery, municipal demarcation changes and currently, we are seeing it in the university students’ #FeesMustFall movement. These examples all point to a demand for inclusive participation in changes that have direct impact on those involved.

Those in leadership roles need to have a deep appreciation and willingness to engage people whenever fundamental changes are undertaken (in society and organisations alike) that will have direct impact on people’s lives. It is evident that not much can happen anymore without involving various stakeholders in a meaningful way, which will drive the change needed in all areas of life.

Generally, what happens in society has a direct bearing on what happens in business. Business leadership needs to recognise the importance of inclusive participation in managing change. The South African economy requires drastic growth measures in order to create the necessary amount of job opportunities, which means all hands need to be on the deck. In other words, all parties need to take ownership on all levels for this wheel (the economy) to turn. The question we ought to ask ourselves is: “What will it take to shift thinking to managing change through inclusive participation?”

Just two such considerations to more effectively manage change are the following:

Letting go of egos: What holds most leaders/people back from including others when managing change is their egos – often to the detriment of organisations and communities. There are many examples of this, ranging from political disasters to business closures. If we hope to build sustainable businesses, and in turn a healthy growing economy, egos have to be sacrificed for the benefit of the greater good.

Valuing diversity of thinking: All people have something of value to contribute if given the chance or opportunity to do so. Leadership needs to embrace this thinking if they are to manage change effectively through involving others. Our differences are not something to divide us – sharing diverse ideas and views towards achieving a common goal should rather unite us. It is the role of managers and leaders to create platforms that encourage all people or employees to come forward with their contribution in all shapes and sizes to create sustainable magic (results).

It is sad to see how much destruction leaders’ egos have caused in boardrooms, parliaments and homes. Equally sad is to see the results of marginalising diverse views and how that has hampered or stumped growth both in the individual and corporate context.

It is imperative now more than ever for leadership to embrace humility and to be inclusive in managing change as we navigate through volatile times. There is so much change happening around us, such as technological changes, policy changes and staff reduction initiatives due to a slow economy, all which require ownership and participation at all levels.

None of us can afford to have only a few individuals driving or managing change without inclusive participation of all stakeholders.

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