How often do we find ourselves doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result? That’s ok of course if we like the result, but in so many cases, especially where change is concerned, we don’t. Or at least we would prefer it to be better somehow.
Even looking at how organisations typically approach change from a macro perspective, we’re still tending to use approaches, tools and techniques that are decades old. And yet the nature of organisational change itself is changing, it’s becoming increasingly transformational and the pace is accelerating rapidly.
Change is, by definition, an uncertain process, it’s a journey into the unknown. Much as we’d love to have one template, one model, one framework that works every time the reality is that these don’t take account of the uncertain nature of human behaviour and the pace at which the world is changing.
Models, templates and frameworks are useful of course but the essential ingredient that’s often missed is taking the time to reflect with honesty, using solid, ideally measurable information, remaining aware of our biases and keeping an open mind. What worked last year or last week won’t necessarily work today, in this scenario with these people within this global context.
As we move through change, it’s critical to keep our radar up, to evaluate what’s happening inside ourselves, inside those around us, within the wider organisation and within the markets the organisation is operating in. We recommend considering at least the following questions:
- Are we still as motivated to change as we were?
- Has anything new happened that will make the change more difficult for those involved?
- Do we still understand how we’re going to get there and how we’re doing on the journey?
- Are the new habits embedding well enough or are we at least thinking ahead to how we’ll ensure that is the case?
- Is something changing in the organisation or in the wider operating environment that could affect what we’re doing?
- Are we reflecting often enough to see things as they happen?
Change is all too often a very top-down affair with much of the focus on the outcomes or results of the change (revenue, profit, costs, deadlines, budget performance etc). It’s very easy to fall into the trap of focusing so much on these hard outcomes we forget to pay enough attention to key factor that will get us there, essentially the extent to which everyone is engaged and committed to making it happen. It’s understandable of course because it’s the results that we’re all judged on and they are easy to measure but focusing on those hard metrics without paying sufficient attention to the “soft” factors is where it comes unstuck. The result, if we’re not very careful, is in pushing people for results we end up killing the goose that lays the golden eggs.
It’s rare for any of us to be really good at something, naturally and without effort. You’ve probably heard the claim that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to master a skill. Change is no different. Like learning to ride a bike, we’ll only truly improve if we’re allowed to fall a few times and accept that occasionally we’ll end up with the equivalent of a scraped knee or bruised ego. And then we pick ourselves up and try a slightly different approach, until we begin to master it.
Regularly evaluating change, if done with honesty, empathy and support tends to create an environment for continuous improvement and a growth mindset. An environment where people can experiment with ideas without the fear of getting it wrong. That’s when ideas really kick in and innovation becomes part of the fabric of the business. In a fast-paced, ever-changing business environment that can be the critical difference.