Organizations still struggle with change. After all our collective years of experience and learning about change, it’s still hard.
Part of the challenge is that we still insist on using techniques that assume organizations are like machines. Get the right tool, technician, and process, and the results will follow.
The problem is that organizations are comprised of people. People are often unpredictable. We have opinions. We don’t like feeling as if we’re being controlled or treated unfairly. And we really don’t like being treated like machines.
Rather than thinking about change as a linear, predictable process, we need a new way. The Change Journey is a process that treats people like people, not like machines.
Beginning the Change Journey: Charting Our Course
Yogi Berra once said “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.” Too many organizations start change without truly understanding their destination. It’s better to answer the fundamental questions before launching the process:
- Where are we going?
- Why are we going there?
- What do we hope to achieve at the end of our journey?
- How will we know when we’ve arrived?
Good navigators constantly take stock of the terrain, scan for warning signs, and map out new and better routes. We can do the same when it comes to change. We can map our organizational landscapes, identifying informal leaders who can help, finding pockets of potential resistance, and discovering teams that have already embarked on the journey.
We can scan for readiness and discover how prepared leaders, teams, individuals, and others are for change. Then, of course, we can act to increase readiness and give people the support needed for change.
Now We Begin the Journey
We then begin the journey through involvement, communication, and leadership coaching. We involve people in the change since no one likes change imposed upon them. This doesn’t mean that we run projects by consensus (although that certainly makes sense in some cases and some organizations). It means that we engage people. We ask for input. We find the internal subject matter experts who have deep and useful knowledge, and we ask for feedback.
We communicate so people understand what is happening when. But we don’t limit our communication to just talking at people or sending an email. Instead, we listen, we ask questions, we make sure people understand and can identify the implications of change to their areas. We ask for their commitment and then we help them change. All of that is communication. All of that is needed.
Finally, we rely on coaching to help leaders stay the course. It’s difficult to hold fast to a vision when people are tugging at the leader, encouraging a tweak here and a tweak there. It’s easy to allow adjustments and, in the process, fail to achieve the initial reason for change. Coaching helps leaders stay on track.
Making it Great: Adapting and Creating
Next we add the fun stuff: Adapting and Creating. This is where we learn and experiment. We identify and get rid of barriers standing in our way, regardless of whether they’re antiquated processes or MS-DOS programs. We find, celebrate, and attempt to replicate successes made in one part of the organization in other places. We keep going on our journey by involving, communicating, and coaching leaders and we refine our journey as we adapt and create.
Traveling the Change Journey
All throughout, we act as travelers. We change course when needed. We have a sense of humor when things, inevitably, turn out differently than we expected. And we open ourselves up to the possibility of discovery, innovation, and unexpected breakthroughs.
Change still isn’t easy. But if we’re on a Change Journey, it can be better.