Change And Transition: The Sat Nav of Reality
How do you DRIVE your change journey? An article about change and transition and how to use the ‘Sat Nav of Reality’
How long does change take to happen? My answer to that question is – instantly. For example, an old policy or process finishes at 23.59 and 59 seconds and the new one starts at midnight. The bit that most people call change is actually transition. It’s the part after the actual change has taken place. You are transitioning from the old to the new and most of this happens in your mind.
“Change is not an event, it is a process triggered by an event. Some of these events are voluntary, some are imposed, and many just seem to happen. Regardless of the origin, the process that humans rely on to deal with them is what we call “change.” Daryl R. Conner
Change goes through predictable stages. This is a bit like going on a journey in the car. You switch the engine on, select the appropriate gear, accelerate, change gear as appropriate and then get to a nice cruising speed until finally you reach your destination). However, one thing that makes a journey less successful (or certainly less enjoyable) is traffic. How can you avoid it? Difficult in the UK in my opinion but just like a change/transition project you can plan ahead and reduce the risks of ‘traffic’ affecting your journey.
As I’ve said, successful transition involves planning from understanding and scoping and building the project team to stage delivery and embedding the change/transition. For those participating, this all includes a lot of activity and work; to the rest of the organisation, it can seem like nothing is actually happening. All change projects have at least one stretch of ‘traffic’, the time when momentum levels off (or stops completely). Transition can fail at any stage and for various reasons, but the ‘traffic’ is always the critical turning point. When allowed to go on for too long, a change project can take a turn off toward failure.
Failure often occurs when managers and stakeholders lose focus, or become involved in interesting new initiatives – the next new shiny thing! They may even assume that decreasing results mean the change isn’t working, and pull the plug.
My top tip is to not allow the ‘traffic’ to last too long as it threatens the success of your project.
Do these things:
· Analyse the bigger picture to identify potential traffic spots that will become barriers to project progress and ultimate success; for example, a team member’s focus shifting elsewhere, too many simultaneous initiatives, or fatigue from the change.
· Select the right gear for the start of your change project journey so it doesn’t stall from the off.
· Decide on key actions that will build acceleration and create a realistic drum beat time line.
· Don’t fudge the paperwork side of things to imply that the change is complete, either by declaring success prematurely or by making it seem as though it failed. Be honest always! A change project is not just a tick box exercise or a snazzy Gantt chart.
· Be prepared to change your journey, not necessarily the destination – this has been well planned and is where you need to be. Listen to the sat nav of reality – if it’s telling you things aren’t working and there is traffic then change direction.
· Remember small actions can sometimes have as great an impact as big ones. A small win is still a win – celebrate it.
What is drive? In this case it is a mnemonic that stands for Denial, Resistance, Inspection, Values and Engagement. These are all stages that we go through during change and transition. They can either be hindering or they can be helpful.
The Hindering side of DRIVE
DENIAL “They don’t really mean it”. Everything will go back to how it has always been.
RESISTANCE “This Company doesn’t care anymore”. This can lead to depression, anxiousness, doubting your own ability, anger.
INSPECTION “What’s going to happen to me?” Through lack of clarity and/or knowledge I may become indecisive, lack clarity with my own goals and stop learning new skills.
VALUES “This is all about the company, none of this fits with my values”. I may feel hard done by, disengaged and adopt a victim mentality.
ENGAGED “How can this ever work?” If I don’t buy in to the change or see how it will work then I may lose focus, become less inclined to work with the team, have blurred vision of the goal(s). I may even start looking to challenge other areas outside of the change itself and generally become less positive and enthusiastic. This can lead to you becoming what I call a ‘change terrorist’.
Does any of the above sound familiar?
How about changing this to be more helpful?
The Helpful side of DRIVE
Actively seek information on the change. What will really happen? Find out the FACTS! Give yourself time to let it sink in. Do not react initially. Schedule in constructive time to talk through the implications of the change with other people, remembering that they may have differing views.
Listen to yourself and your feelings. Find people who can recognise how you feel. They may not necessarily agree but they can see. Talk it through without seeking to problem solve.
Logically analyse the benefits and concerns you have with the change. Again, use FACTS and not just emotion. Focus on priority actions – those within your control. Seek guidance and upskilling. Broaden your mind. Find small wins that you will get as a result of the change (there’s always some).
Ensure you really understand the values that are driving the change and you are not just reading the words. Look at which parts of the change DO fit with your own values.
Set longer-term goals with the new change in place. Concentrate on working as a team – no matter how small, this will help. Create an exciting new world vision of your own that is in line with the change. Create it, own it and live it.
Some questions to ask yourself and the team:
1. Which stage are you at in the DRIVE cycle?
2. What and who could possibly help you through to the next stage?
3. What positive actions can you take right now to help move towards the engaged stage?
4. What issues that are beyond my/our control can I dump right now? (Do not feel bad about letting go of these issues).
The most effective sustainers of behaviour change invest their time and resources where the impact is. We buy into change when we can feel, see, hear and touch it personally. If the effect is good for us then we buy in. Find the advantages for you rather than looking solely at the negative aspects of the change (break away from your cognitive and fixation bias).
It is human nature to become attached to the way things are. Psychologically, we do not like to switch from something that is working well for us now to something new. Part of this has to do with the way the brain works and part of it has to do with our emotional ties to the status quo. A real life example of this that I have encountered recently is changing my car. I had been driving the same car for many years and for various reasons I had to get a new car that is a bit different from my old, familiar one. How did it feel? Exciting? Yes, but also quite daunting. One thing is for sure, my driving became slower. More on my car later.
Don’t forget that the actual time line of change/transition is a challenge. A leadership team will (should) discuss and create an amazing vision of the new world and then start to put in motion the wheels of this change/transition. The discussions and planning can take a long time and this gives people in the leadership team time to tackle their own denial, understand their feelings and inspect the detail logically. This will reduce their own internal resistance to the change (or aspects of it). By the time that an organisation then rolls out a change, and by roll out I mean tangible actions that impact the workforce, the leadership team have had a lot of time to get used to the details of the change. They planned it after all and have gone through the DRIVE journey. They are looking through very different reality glasses than the actual workforce who are, let’s say, 6-12 months behind. Through their reality glasses, things look very different.
What you need are excellent DRIVERS on a change/transition journey
In a world of constant change, ambiguity, complexity and uncertainty people can be scared. It is important that leaders see their role is to ensure people feel safe and secure and that they plan change/transition effectively. Once you do that, those followers may surprise you.
There are four key elements to think about when making change happen.
1. Dissatisfaction with current Reality
2. Inspirational Vision
3. Easily recognisable Steps
4. Capability for Change
The Change Equation is fundamental to understanding the components and psychology of change and improvement and provides a helpful start point in thinking about leading and achieving change. The key with this model is to establish a credible plan that takes into account all of the four elements.
Dissatisfaction with the current Reality
The first thing to consider is the Dissatisfaction with the current Reality. What is the current reality and how much is it affecting those involved? You can only plan an effective change initiative if you are tackling areas that create dissatisfaction. If this isn’t the case then you need to ask why you are doing it in the first place. Sometimes we are unaware of dissatisfaction until we are made aware of something that could potentially be better. Back to my car again – I didn’t have any major dissatisfaction with my old car, felt comfortable with it, like a pair of old slippers. That was until I saw an amazing deal on a newer car that had a few more shiny things that would benefit me, like a built in DAB radio for example – how else could I listen to Planet Rock whilst driving? All of a sudden I was a little dissatisfied with the old and started to consider the new. This example leads on to the next point.
With change and transition projects you need to create an Inspirational Vision – one that really sells where the change and transition will lead to. How are you going to communicate and sell this change and the benefits to all those involved and impacted? Or better still, how will you involve them in creating an inspirational vision? People aren’t opposed to change nearly as much as they are opposed to change they didn’t think of or were not involved in planning… and interestingly… buy-in happens most fully when people understand the why, rather than what or how.
Easily Recognisable Steps
Sometimes change projects can be made too complex. It is a fact that people are more likely to buy into change if it has been broken down into Easily Recognisable Steps. Complexity can baffle people – simple steps look less scary and more achievable. Think about chunking the big stuff down into bite-sized, manageable steps on a realistic ‘drum beat’ time line.
Capability for Change
People do (or don’t) do things for two main reasons…1) because then can – they have the ability, and 2) because they want to – they are motivated. Therefore it is important that those impacted by any change initiative have the Capability for change. If the capability isn’t there, what can you do, as a leader, to change that? It is worth noting that both the can do (ability) and the want to do (the motivation) aspects are vital – therefore, at this stage concentrate on both the technical and the psychological aspects. Because a person or a team has the technical capability for change, it doesn’t mean that they are necessarily motivated for it.
The goal that you are looking for is Real Change. This means inclusive change as opposed to forced change.
If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to go to the forest and gather wood, saw it, and nail the planks together, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Change can still take place if certain elements are missing from the DRIVERS model but will be less impactful in a positive way – see the picture of the full model below. The aim is to really analyse all the four areas and identify actions for each element. If you plan effectively you are much more likely to establish real (sustainable) change that people buy in to.
Finally, don’t lose sight of everything because of the end goal – yes that needs to be well thought out, realistic and attainable (and attractive) but never at the expense of how you get there. As Ursula K LeGuin said, “It is good to have an end to journey towards; but it is the journey that matters, in the end”.