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Institutional Change and Process

As we spend the summer planning for the Idea Realization Lab, I’ve been reflecting on delivering value, processes, and how to go about systemic institutional change. I think I’m starting to notice some patterns between what we’re doing at DePaul, and other organizations that I’ve led to varying degrees of success/failure.

  1. Organization begins with a grain of an idea, but a degree of unknown value proposition. Organization spends ~ 1-2 years identifying value proposition while iterating on idea. I call this the “don’t let anything get set on fire phase.” This phase is marked by rapid iteration, ad hoc development of processes, institutional friction due to cultural differences, and a healthy dose of excitement and energy
  2. Organization discovers a grain of a value proposition, and has largely solidified the product. Organization must now create measurements (Key Performance Indicators) to realize the value proposition, processes to deliver on said measurements (strategies), and methods by which organizational leaders can track the tactical effects of said strategies. This phase is marked by seemingly bureaucratic (but important!) internal institutionalization + rapid growth and expansion of resources and the beginnings of an ability to effect institutional change. Pay attention to over-institutionalization, or you may lose what sparked the idea in the first place.
  3. Organization has now grown into its capabilities to effect change more broadly than its original zone of comfort. This could mean that the organization has the ability to change the culture of the larger institution it is part of, or that it has a wider effect on culture/society (see: Apple). Organizational culture becomes zeitgeist — it is consumed by the broader audience, and becomes part and parcel. This phase is marked by growth steadying and power solidification. Be wary of losing track of how you arrived at 1 and 2.

Based on the work we’re currently undertaking, I’d say that the IRL is at the beginning of phase 2. We are working on institutionalizing ourselves with the broader goal of effecting change at DePaul and in Chicago, and as a result, have begun to build the processes necessary to support that change. If that’s the case, we have about another couple years before we are able to realize 3.

After 3? I don’t know. Have never gotten beyond that.


Jay Margalus is on Twitter at @jaymargalus

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