“Do you ever get the feeling that there’s something going on that we don’t know about?”
Making epic change within an organisation is hard. In fact, in some organisations making small changes is hard. If you’re struggling with making lasting change, trying to initiate change or thinking of making some changes, then maybe the following short thoughts may be helpful to you.
It’s usual for managers to present change in the form of processes, budgets, diagrams, actions, project plans and many other forms of communication and documentation.
Something along the lines of:
“We’re currently doing this. We’re going to transition to do this other thing instead. And here’s how we’ll do it and what the end result will look like. Oh yes, and how much it will cost. And this is the deadline. And this is what we expect you to deliver.”
Depending on your company culture and personal style these diagrams or plans may be simple pictures or detailed business plans or excel spreadsheets or something else entirely.
They’re pretty much all the same – a model of what the world will look like, a representation of what’s going to change and limited descriptions of the messy middle.
This is good. You should produce the right level and style of plan that your company needs.
But the thing that’s often missing from the master plan is a plan for your team; the people who will do the work. And this is why most transitions from one way of working to another often don’t succeed. It’s not because the plan isn’t well thought out, planned or co-ordinated, it’s because people have no idea what role they play in the plan, or how they need to develop to make it happen. (And if people don’t have to develop at all to make it happen then your idea for change is not powerful enough).
Intellectually most people can see the benefit of a new approach or transition. “We’ll be faster, cheaper, more adaptive, cool, yada yada” – enter your own business reasons for change here. Take for example a transition to agile. Most people can resonate with why you would do and how to do it, yet when it comes to the reality of it, many transitions fail. People don’t have the right skills or appreciation of learning and hence blockers and barriers come up, and fear rides high.
The problem is that most meaningful changes require people to change also.
Change is really easy if people don’t have to change. It becomes hard when people need to change.
Yet most plans for change don’t focus on the people. They don’t focus on how and why people need to change, how the management will support that change or what training or mentoring or coaching will be available.
There are often few plans about how the company culture will change or how it needs to change to accommodate the new working process. It’s usually just methods, strategies and process, usually accompanied by some measures to see how the change is progressing – often compellingly presented and motivational – only for the new strategy to fall on it’s backside because people are too busy to change, too scared to change or don’t know how to change. Or the change is just too big for the system people work in, and their abilities to adapt it to keep up.
What about the people? What plan do you have for them? Without a change in the team it’s unlikely a business change will succeed, or remain in place for a period of time. How will their role grow? How will their jobs change? How will they need to change as a person?
Don’t be shy about looking at yourself too. In my experience, most transitions struggle or fail because the managers are the ones who need to change.
Some people are open to change, some people force themselves to change and others shy away from it at all costs. I’ve not met anyone who likes change because it can be painful and hard and consumes energy. Management are often the most resistant to change, and this is especially so for many executives.
So if you’re changing something then go forth and make plans and draw diagrams and set goals and put in place measures and tell compelling stories, but don’t forget to include your people in that plan too.
They are a crucial part of any business change and they require support, training, care, feedback and compelling reasons to change – your people need a plan too.