Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Change ... but not just for the sake of change!

Perhaps the current political landscape has put a new connotation or even a shroud over the positive aspects of either attempting or managing productive "change" in a business environment. We've heard the cliches that change is good and healthy, or on the other side we've also heard the old expression that "if it ain't broke, don't fix it". So where is the truth about what we should be doing.

In 2005 a wonderful book was published which took the topic and put it in a storyline or "Fairy Tale" type of approach. The book is called Our Iceberg is Melting by John Kotter. The interesting thing is that it tackles change from many perspectives and exposes the faces of resistance and skepticism or justified caution and even unreasonable denial. The book's approach is that in any consideration of change, we should take an all inclusive and carefully thought out plan to first evaluate all of the possibilities.

On the very front end one of the most important aspects should be that we take an intuitive and subjective look at analyzing the facts before we even proceed with offering a suggestion or recommendation for a change initiative.

Once that evaluation has been made, it is important to follow a path that is described as an 8 step process for successful change. They actually break down the eight steps into four definable areas of actions which include; setting the stage, deciding what to do, making it happen and finally making it stick.

The steps for a successful change environment include first creating a sense of urgency and then pulling together the team that is necessary to guide the process. The actual "what?" is critical for both identifying the vision and implementing the strategy of what needs to be done. Making it happen is the biggest challenge and includes a high degree of communicating an understanding of the change and to get real buy-in to insure that other will others will act on the change process. During the length of the process it is critical to identify short term wins as you don't want to loose enthusiasm before the process is complete. And lastly the importance of insuring that the change is accepted and part of a new culture or new way of thinking.

One of the last elements, that is the sine qua non of the entire process, is the intergrated role of thinking and feeling, in the larger impact for the success that you seek to attain. A simplistic way, to sum up the Kotter methodology for a successful implementation, is that providing logical examples and experiences of "why" can help change people's feelings, it will then stimulate a change in their thinking, and ultimately will directly lead to a change in ongoing behavior.

The book gives a quick read that helps people appreciate all sorts of perspectives that we all see daily in our workplaces. Perhaps this Antarctic Fairy Tale opens some minds that are always closed and frees up others that need dramatic proof before they will even consider looking into change. Remember "change" is something unknown and the results potentially scary and therefore easily resisted by all sorts of people and personalities.

You may need some help managing this comprehensive approach, but that is why we are here. So don't be afraid to Go for the Gold ... but be sure to "Set the stage for a Successful Change"!

The Performance Detective