Making Successful Changes in an Uncertain World

April 3, 2020

On April Fool’s Day, I really wished that I could wake up and find that the life I have been living for the past few weeks was just a dream. I wished that life across the globe could return to the “normal” of at least one month ago, but it can’t. The current COVID-19 situation has definitely changed most of our lives forever. It has caused us to have to change ourselves, our routines, our environment, and our businesses. The thing is . . . most people don’t like to change even though it is the one thing that we can count on. Change is constant.

If there is anything I have learned while helping organizations implement new projects, policies, and systems to meet their business needs and demands in an ever-changing workplace, it is that change is not easy. We have to learn from it and make even more changes. I have utilized the following six basic practices to help others ensure successful changes and hope you will consider these as you implement changes in your organization to come out of this crisis.

1) True North
The starting point for creating a successful change is to clearly share your “True North.” This is defined as your orienting point – your fixed point in a spinning world – that helps you stay on track. If you want to gain buy-in and support, start with this clarity of purpose and vision. It includes continuous communication about what the change is and why it is happening. This way your employees are clear on the direction and goals of your organization, including what is making you need to make the change now. Sometimes you have to pull numbers together to prove your business case, but it is this True North that keeps you grounded and focused on what you plan to achieve. Your True North also provides information regarding the facts of the change so that everyone can understand where you are going and why.

2) Structure
With any change, you need to consider how you are going to make it happen in your organization. This includes thinking through the different departments that need to be involved and the roles you will need. You may need to create new departments, new roles, clear guidelines on reporting chains, and role descriptions as well as decision-making protocol in order to make your changes happen.

3) Relationships
Think about the people, the stakeholders, the political networks that exist in your organization, and their anticipated acceptance or resistance to the change. By completing a “What’s In It For Me” analysis for each, you can begin to lay out your strategy for support. This is a great opportunity to try a Japanese practice called ‘nemawashi’ – of gathering buy-in and support along the way. By identifying these change agents and addressing their concerns, your change will become easier to implement. Your goal in any change is to gain a critical mass of support so that others will understand why you made the change, accept your rationale, and commit to the change.

4) Helpful Mechanisms
Often change efforts fail because we forget to think about the technology, training, and communication strategies that are needed to help implement the change. These should be identified before you are ready to roll out your change or it will not be effective no matter how much support you have gathered.

5) Accountability
It is important to provide clear expectations and feedback so that people are clear on what they should be doing and understand how they are doing and where they are falling short. Don’t forget to measure progress and reward those who demonstrate the change successfully or you will lose them and they will revert back to their old ways.

6) Leadership
Finally, holding it all together are good leaders who provide direction, clarity, accountability, communication, and the resources to make it happen. Successful leaders are the ones who utilize the other five areas in creating change in their organization.

Foundations can help you establish the foundation and systems that help you work through changes, whether big or small, that you may need to make in your organizations. Don’t foolishly assume that change is easy – it isn’t and you need to have a plan in place to manage it. Contact us to help you put that strategy in place.

— Leslie Russ, Consultant

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