Run Your Own Experiment

Leading a change experiment

If you want to lead a change experiment, start with research to assess current conditions in your organization. This will help you decide where to target your efforts.

Assess yourself. What are your formal and informal roles in the organization? Where are you in your life and career? What resources are available to you?

Dig deeper. What strengths and skills do you bring to this initiative? What weaknesses and constraints? Analyze your organization’s key players and groups. What is their relationship to the gender equity issue? Who needs to be enlisted to fill the gaps? Try our political mapping tools.

As you weigh the challenges and opportunities, keep in mind that change – even  modest change – can be threatening. We’ve been there. To help you succeed, use our adaptive leadership toolkit – our best practices for change agents.

Adaptive Leadership Toolkit

Get on the balcony. To understand trends, take the long view. This is hard in mission-driven organizations, where we often get stuck on the dance floor, caught up in the day-to-day. From the balcony, you can look for clues and ask the big questions.

Think politically. Moving from diagnosis to intervention will call upon all your relationship skills. Who has the most to gain or lose if this experiment is successful? Who are your potential allies? Who says they’re with you but never steps up? What incentive will get these people to take the leap?

Determine your time horizon. Gender initiatives push against the status quo. So be prepared for incremental change. Having an image of success, early and long term, will focus your strategy and tactics.

Orchestrate the conflict. To launch this experiment, you’ll need to facilitate uncomfortable conversations about gender equity and what might be sacrificed on its behalf. The organization may try to reduce the tension. Keep the issue alive so people face the tension and work it through.

Practice the art of compromise. If you understand your environment, you can decide when to make an agreement that falls short of your highest hopes. Can you separate what’s essential from what’s negotiable, so you can insist on the former and bend on the latter?

Deal with the resistance. People may try to derail your efforts, for example, by not coming to meetings or insisting on delays. Resistance is a sign that you’re making headway. Take small steps, but keep pushing the work back, so people struggle with their choices and pursue an intervention.

Separate role from self. You may be criticized for being “aggressive” or taking the agency away from its noble purposes. Don’t take it personally. The attacks are not about you but about the issue you carry.

Pay attention to naysayers. Skeptics reveal important clues about underlying concerns and objections in the organization. Treat their questions and criticism as valuable intelligence.

Value your mistakes. This is an experiment! Setbacks and failures are learning opportunities. Stay open, keep assessing the data, and make midcourse corrections to integrate what you learn.

Use accountability as a strategic tool. To demonstrate commitment to women’s advancement, your organization must create quantifiable goals. How will progress be measured and monitored? Create incentives and send a clear message about what change will look like.

You are part of a larger movement

Leading a change experiment can be challenging, stressful, and lonely. You are not alone! You and your allies are part of a larger effort in the Jewish community and in the larger society – to help women professionals reach their full potential.

Cherish your confidants, people who care more about you than your advocacy or project. Create sanctuary to restore your perspective and rekindle your sense of humor. And join our network of catalysts!

For a consultation on your experiment, contact us.

Talk to colleagues and draft a plan for a modest experiment. Want a consultation? Email us with your proposal.