Change is inevitable, but not all change is for the better.
Much of what is changing in today’s world is for the worse. Signs of decline are evident everywhere. To improve, change must result in a positive benefit for everyone involved. Does this seem hard to do? Not if you know what to look for.
At work and in our lives, we are required to change. The question is: In the process, will we become weaker or stronger? The answer hinges on a crucial choice we all make every day of our lives. Are we seeing change as an opportunity or as a threat?
Have you ever wondered why some people and organizations excel even in difficult times? Faced with unprecedented challenges some people fail, others simply survive, but few grow and even prosper. What makes the difference between these groups?
Searching for answers, we embarked on a study of over 50 organizations that undertook major transformations in the last fifteen years. The goal was to find out what the people and organizations that got better did differently than those who didn’t.
In our research, we discovered against the odds and often facing sizable perils, the remarkable rise of the most successful companies reveals a set of five principles and practices on how they approached change.
The research shows that leading successful change, at work and in our lives, is simply a choice. While change is inevitable, growth is entirely optional. Those who frame change as opportunity ultimately find ways to succeed.
How do leaders and entire organizations go about adopting the right mindset towards change? Intentionally or intuitively, they create the conditions for people to embrace change as a positive challenge. We discovered five ways for doing this.
The five ways you can influence change for the better at work and in your life are based on the following concepts:
- Build Common Purpose – Why Change
- Clarify the Direction – What to Change
- Develop Capacity – I Can Change
- Inspire Teamwork – I Want to Change
- Achieve Results Early On – Makes Sense
The steps seem obvious, yet they are not common practice. In fact, seven out of ten change initiatives fail to address these five elements producing predictable failures.
Conversely, in order to change for the better, you need to address “the why,” “the what” and “the how.” How includes ability (I can change) and motivation (I want to change). For a change to succeed in the long term it needs to show evidence of success early on. The final component is to orchestrate quick wins that provide much needed credibility.
How you go about changing is as important as what you are changing. The approach has big consequences for everyone involved for better or worse. In the process, you must notice how you are leading change by addressing the five key questions.
- As you make decisions . . .
- Are people able to trust your motives?
- Or do they question your intentions?
- As you set priorities . . .
- Are you helping people reassess what they do?
- Or are you imposing conflicting directions?
- As you increase efficiency . . .
- Are you removing unnecessary work?
- Or are you cutting core capabilities?
- As you become more effective. . .
- Are you keeping people engaged?
- Or are you sacrificing long-term commitment?
- As you lead change . . .
- Are you getting results from the start?
- Or are you taking a long time before seeing success?
If your answer for each of these questions is “A”, you are leading your team towards a positive outcome. You are making a difference. On the other hand, if you answer one or more of these questions with the second option, you and your team are likely struggling to make change work. Correcting your approach will save you and your team unnecessary losses and frustrations. More importantly, you will be on your way to making a positive difference.
To change and to improve are two different things.
~ German proverb