Thursday, October 09, 2014

The Most Powerful Tools for Change

Someone asked me, What are the most recommended tools to bring about a needed change?

My answer: The best tools are still a conference room, a flipchart with markers, the right participants, and a good facilitator equipped with powerful questions.

And one more thing: a simple process to use as a roadmap.

The Gleicher Change Formula, D x V x F > R (pictured to the left), is a great starting point.

Here's a quick breakdown:

- D - To make change, there has to be Dissatisfaction with the status quo. This is critical, but not enough by itself. People live for years with dissatisfactory conditions, at work, and at home, and make little effort to change.

- V - Then you need a Vision for change, an idea for a new more desirable state. The Vision, if highly attractive, and if it is owned by members of the system in need of change, will energize the movement from inertia.

- F - To anchor the vision, you also need a roadmap that identifies the First Steps on the path toward the vision. If people can see the way forward, taking the first steps will seem less frightening and more doable.

- R - Having the first three components, however, will never be enough if they do not outweigh the Resistance that keeps us from changing. If the D, V, and F carry more energy than the Resistance, you'll have more of a chance of actually achieving real change.

As good as this Formula is, there is a problem. It seems that we humans have ItC = Immunity to Change.

This is the title of psychologists Robert Kagan and Lisa Lahey's book on our built-in defenses against change. Their thesis, in a nutshell, is that we will do almost anything to avoid changing, even when it is for the better...and for our own good.

"Better the devil you know" may actually reflect a deep psychological truth.

If Kagan and Lahey are right (and I think they are), it appears that we are so change-averse that we will do our utmost to rationalize our way out of changing.

This may be the reason for the extraordinarily high rate of failure of change initiatives.

So what is the answer? I believe that three tweaks to the Change Formula may hold the key.

Desire - While dissatisfaction with the status quo may drive some change efforts, it may not be enough. Change expert John Adams taught us this years ago. One person's sense of dissatisfaction may be the next person's "so what?" Unless we are feeling a strong inner drive to change (a "sense of urgency" as John Kotter would say), not much will happen.

Do your people feel the need to change?

Resilience - Change guru Daryl Conner describes resilience as the human capacity to absorb high levels of change without cracking up. We can absorb a lot, even when we don't like it, which is most of the time. If we are so resilient, what's the problem? The problem with resilience is change exhaustion: the unrelenting "white water" rate of organizational change that produces cynicism, stress, and burnout.

Are your people ready for more change?

Participation - The great Meg Wheatley once said, "People support what they help to create." In a word, inclusion.

Many have wondered, How do you get 'buy-in?' The answer is, as Wheatley says, bring people into the process.

Have you designed involvement into your change strategy?

So to take a change project further, here are seven more steps to bring about change.

P = Picture success. What would it look like if you actually reached your improvement goal? Envision it as specifically as you can. This is the Vision you are yearning for.

R = Review your starting point. Where do things stand right now? What are your strengths that can help you reach the goal? What obstacles stand in your way? Make a list of each using the Force Field diagram where Driving Forces are listed on the left and Hindering Forces on the right.

O = Open up. Have you ever been on the receiving end of an improvement hatched behind closed doors? Don't repeat that mistake. Who could help you with this improvement project? Why not tell them about your goal and ask for their support?

C = Collaborate. Invite participation. Form teams. Remember that people support what they help create.

E = Execute. After enough study, select the best ideas and put them into action. See what happens. Remember it's OK to start small.

Use the Stop-Start-Continue method as a simple energizer to identify actionable steps...and to get things moving.

S = Sustain. If things start to get better, reinforce the gains. If you don't, watch out. Things may revert back to the previous state.

S = Start again. Improving your process is never-ending.

What are you waiting for? Pick your change target. Start improving.

Terrence Seamon has over thirty years of business experience in leadership development, management training, team building, and organizational change, in both internal as well as external consulting roles. Terry has a Master’s degree in Education from Rutgers Graduate School of Education, as well as a Bachelor's degree in Human Communication from Rutgers. His main interest areas these days are change and transition, job search coaching, stress and wellness, employee engagement, and leadership development. You can find him on twitter at tseamon and on facebook at Facilitation Solutions.

For more guidance on change, read Terry's book Change for the Better

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