Using Organizational Design and Change Methodology when Combating Vu Jàdé

How many of us have experienced déjà vu? You know, that feeling that you’ve experienced a specific situation before? We all have. But have you ever considered that déjà vu has an antonym? I had not until I read Karl Weick’s article, “The Collapse of Sensemaking in Organizations: The Mann Gulch Disaster,” last week. Weick explains that Vu Jàdé (also referred to as Vuja De) is when you experience a situation you have never experienced before, have no idea where you are, and no idea who can help.

When I read that phrase, I thought it was the perfect way to describe our current environment. This is exactly how most leaders and employees have felt over the past year of living in a pandemic—I know it’s how I’ve felt! Weick highlights how such an experience makes employees, leaders, and organizations vulnerable and causes panic by compromising decision making, sensemaking, and role structure.

So, how do you combat this experience? Weick recommends having “goals that transcend the self-interests of each participant,” nonstop communication (crucial to coordinating complex systems, especially during difficult times), and having a “formal and informal structure that enables quick reactions.” If you listen to GP Strategies’ Podcast, Julyan Lee and I discuss this idea further: these can all be addressed by trusting your organizational design (OD) and change management (CM) methodologies. OD and CM help organizations and individuals recognize both planned and unplanned change and strategize how to deal with them.  

COVID has produced an entirely new level of uncertainty. However, pay, benefits, working conditions, management, rules and regulations, personal and professional growth, processes and procedures, and organizational structure all continue to impact employee satisfaction. In turn, that impacts an organization’s ability to meet its goals. An OD methodology gives you the tools and framework; skilled OD practitioners can help you refine and leverage that methodology to find solutions that maximize the motivating variables I listed above.

It is natural for employees to be unnerved. Organizations need to double down on CM efforts to support their employees at an individual level. Employees will continue to seek what we at GP Strategies capture in our Reason, Role, Path, Partner (R2P2) model. More than ever, employees want clarity around what is changing and why. What are the risks? What’s in it for them and the organization? What’s required of them? What skills will they need to be successful? Do they have leaders they can trust? CM practitioners and methodology can prepare leaders to address these questions quickly and effectively. Methodologies, such as the GP Strategies’ Preventative, Proactive, and Responsive method, help organizations plan their CM strategy and properly prepare their employees for all of the changes to come, helping to prevent any unwanted or undesirable outcomes. Even with the best strategies, unintended consequences, or even worse, a vu jàdé experience, can still happen. But, if you have a methodology in place, you will have the tools to stay calm, apply what you know about CM, course correct, endure, and thrive.

About the Authors

Cedric Brisseau

Cedric Brisseau