Hats Off to Dogged and Disruptive Change

fascinatorHats off to those of you who laugh at the face of danger and yawn at the status quo (you know who you are!).  For most leaders, however, the constant drumbeat of change is draining and uncomfortable.

A leader’s tendency to resist or embrace change varies dramatically and is driven largely by her perception of the risks and benefits.  It sounds straightforward, yet rarely is.  Once time, resources and energy are brought into the equation, it can get downright messy.  It’s no wonder some people want to run from the room at the mere mention of another reorganization or automated tool designed to make their lives easier.

If that notion resonates with you, consider the following four strategies to sharpen your ability to lead, or participate productively in, the dogged and disruptive changes that affect your team and organizations.

    1. Get out front – Clearly, this is not easy when staring into the abyss of an erupting volcano. Looking for ways to improve upon existing ideas and processes before they become problems, however, minimizes the chance that you will be blindsided or forced to react to a fire-drill.

Once a day, challenge yourself to step back and ask,

      • What would happen if this process blew up tomorrow? (This is especially difficult if you participated in the design of the current process.)
      • Who can replace [key performer’s name here] if he left for another opportunity?
      • How would I tackle this problem if I wasn’t encumbered with the existing way of doing things
    1. One step at a time Tacking is a common zig-zag maneuver that helps a sailor optimize progress to her desired destination and prevents big course corrections should the wind change significantly. While there were no wholesale changes at the royal wedding, there sailboat tackingwere enough to acknowledge respectfully the changing landscape of the monarch’s constituents.

When contemplating a new initiative, minimize “all or nothing” approaches and the time sink of analysis paralysis by asking:

      • How much empirical information do we need before making a decision to change direction
      • What step can we take to gauge impact before taking the next step?
      • At what point will I need to pivot in another direction or abandon ship altogether?
    1. Get outsideSolicit and listen to fresh input from people outside your organization, preferably those with nothing to gain or lose.   Then, challenge yourself to put your ideas in context of the broader organization (vs. your department).  Incent your team members to behave similarly by including cross-functional collaboration in their performance goals. Invite team members to challenge one another even if outside their areas of expertise.  Ask:
    • Who are my “go to” team members and on which matters would I like them to challenge me?
    • Am I thinking too parochially? Is this idea or solution something that benefits the organization as a whole?
    • What is the impact of this change to individuals outside my organization?
  1. Get back in the ring quickly(also known as resiliency). Of course, not every idea or attempt to lead change will be successful.  In fact, many will not.  When something doesn’t work out, lick your wounds and move on.  Be sure to debrief readily on lessons learned for the next challenge by asking:
  • What did we learn from this process, including what worked and what didn’t?
  • Why did the process or change work – or why not?
  • What will we do differently next round?

Change can be complicated and, clearly, there is no owner’s manual that works for all leaders.  Developing and polishing skills for dealing with change, however, will go a long way to help you stand out, contribute more and minimize disruption to your team and organizations.  Lead Confidently.

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  1. Good advice, as usual. Especially in today’s instantaneous and ever-on climate, it’s essential to carve out time to assess whether there’s a more effective way to do things.

    • jacquline says

      Thanks, Nancy … and, meanwhile, we’ll hang on to our hats, as leading through change is the order of the day.

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