When I applied for a job at a software company many years ago one sentence is still very vivid in my memory: “the only constant here is the constant change”. When I walked from the interview to my car and drove back I was thinking about that. Why do they have constant change? And is this good or bad? I never took that job so I don’t know what was behind it at that particular company. However, change management never left me.
So, I thought I write about my opinion on change and I’m starting with the status quo. Change is when something moves from one situation to another. So let’s examine the situation we want to change first.
Every change is impacting on people in some way. When you look at a particular situation and exploring it in detail, you must identify the different stakeholders. Let’s look an example. You want to move house and you have been thinking about this for a while. It could be the neighbours, a job opportunity, the constant travel time to work, or closer to family. Now, how to break it your partner? This is a core stakeholder! What about the kids or friends, the family you to move closer to, your work colleagues, your boss, your staff, or the sports club where you are the treasurer? You have core stakeholders and indirect ones. That all depends on how much they are impacted by the change and if they have an investment in the status quo.
After you a clear who is impacted by your wild idea, you need to reflect again on why are you doing it. I gave some examples before. And remember who wanted to move here in the first place? When you think about your reasons for the change, don’t forget what speaks for not changing. Then look at the situation from every core stakeholder’s point of view. This will help you to understand their likely reaction when you explain your idea. Your partner may have very close friends, or has fallen in love with garden. The kids actually like the school and are very succesful in the local football team. Your teenage daughter actually likes moving closer to the city. Very likely you will find resistance because
- nobody wants to change because of another person’s idea
- everybody has some investment in the current status quo
- people will only change if they have a reason to do so
The fourth element of changing the current situation is the timing. When will the change take place? In other words what’s the plan? Or how long do I have to adjust to the idea or find enough reason to convince you of not changing. The second aspect of the timing is the question of why now and not next month or in 2 years. Why is it important to change now. Quite likely there is a trigger that either raises the awareness or impact otherwise on the status quo.
Now you are fairly clear about the benefits and the disadvantages of the status quo. You know who has invested what and how much into it and what they like and don’t like of the current situation. The question becomes, can you articulate your objective in such a way that the other stakeholder have enough reason to follow you or even help making it happen? Can you paint a picture where everybody can see themselves happy and having gained more than they lost by moving?
There is also the very important point of the journey to get there. You will not succeed – even if everybody agrees with the objective – if the journey seems impossible and you are not inspiring enough to brave that voyage. For many change projects the journey is as much the objective as the original goal you have in mind. Let’s look at a different example for this. Imaging you have listened to an inspiring speech about sailing around the world. Wow, you think, that would be great, seeing all the different countries, being self sufficient, and all working together as a team. Depending on your sailing knowledge (mine is nil), what fish you can eat, how much water, food, … you need from port to port, your risk profile (storms, pirates, sickness), and many other things, every stakeholder may be quite excited of doing it and seeing themselves on Bahamas, Fiji, Australia, and Ceylon. However, they may also be pretty scared about what can go wrong.
- what is the objective?
- how do we get there?
- do you have the inspiration and vision to overcome fears and risks