The sources of inevitable change
The world around us is under constant and inevitable change. These changes produce a domino effect that often spills over into our personal state of mind, social circles, organizations, and communities.
Organizations undergo change for a plethora of reasons. Some change through rapid growth, to survive, or to transform their brand (and by extension products and services). People change for a similar range of reasons – graduation, marriage, divorce, job changes, moving abroad, or learning a new language.
How changes are handled is critical to both a person’s or an organization’s success, or failure. It might seem obvious that none of us wants to be an obstacle to change or seen as a resistor of new ideas or initiatives. It is not good for us, our careers, or our organization. This naturally prompts the question; how can we embrace change as an individual and as a leader to maximize our chances of success?
The most common barrier to change is fear. Whether it is fear of failure, the unknown, or of what the change might mean – the feelings are normal, however, they do not need to, and nor should they define our actions. Two areas help us move through change:
- Focusing on People
- Measuring success
Focusing on the people side of change
- Empathy: Put yourself in the shoes of others by recognizing and openly admitting that change risks are real. Recognizing and accepting change is the first step toward managing it. If your big idea goes sideways, the price may be paid by others, so empathy is essential.
- Consensus: Thankfully the days of command-and-control leadership are, for the most part, long gone! Change initiatives, today, recognize the importance of from the ground up consensus-building rather than a top-down “order”. When we involve ourselves in change, we better understand the rationale and fear fades away.
- Get buy-in: Well-run change initiatives consider and manage surfacing concerns, potential risks, and possible unintended consequences (such as behavioural changes after the introduction of a new sales compensation program). Remember the golden rule: even if we personally dislike something within the system (or process), we need to retain a flexible mindset to encourage others to help effect the change. Rarely does a person rush to the side of an individual, or group of individuals, raging against change (and by extension the company or family “machine”)?
- Communicate: Establish a clear and consistent communication strategy before change initiatives start. This essential step provides all stakeholders with regular updates and positive feedback, the latter of which helps stay the course when things get bumpy. Regular communication helps individuals through the inevitable chaotic phase real changes tend to experience.
Measuring change success
- De-risk: Change initiatives are helpfully piloted in a small or manageable part of the organization allowing identifiable outcomes, and just in case something goes wrong. Like sailing, tacking as needed until we get it right. This will inspire others to do the same because success breeds more success. Impactful change initiatives soon catch the attention of management which increases our value and trust within the organization.
- Measure outcomes: Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard embed the idea of “what gets measured, gets done” in the HP Way in late 1937. The idea remains embedded, to this day, in most things from performance management to change management. No matter how good an idea is, leaders need to be able to articulate how it aligns with the organizational purpose and objectives, using concrete data.
“Change is life, the new, constant reality of any workplace. And if it’s not, it ought to be, because the riskiest thing any businesses can do in the new, uncertain world order, is to not change.”Michael Kerr
Before we roll our eyes and think to ourselves “oh…here we go again”! We need to remember that the ability to adapt to change is, more often than not, a competitive advantage for us. By making a purposeful decision not just to embrace inevitable change but to positively move it forward, we are setting ourselves on the path to success – personally and professionally!
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Cartoon credit: Scott Adams