If you think change is easy, you must be doing it wrong! These 4 strategies can help…
Why do we say change is hard when we make changes every day; we change clothes, what we eat, where we go. We change meetings, appointments, schedules constantly. So what is it about change that makes us put the brakes on anything and everything that requires us to act, work, interact, and think a little differently? In the digital era, change is everywhere. There’s new technology, new initiatives, new customers, new opportunities and new risks. And all of them require some sort of change whether it be to our priorities, our time, or how we go about doing our work. And yet, with a recent Harvard Business Review finding that 70 per cent of digital transformations do not realise their expected outcome, it’s clear that we have a challenge around a change in mindset, business model and approach.
Time to get out of our comfort zones; digital is all about transformation and innovation, which at it’s core requires varying degrees of change and adaptability. And yet so many of us are still uncomfortable with it. Even something as basic as shared work spaces was initially a confronting change to many that signalled the end of something that was comfortable and familiar. The idea to many, is that change means that there is something that has not been done well or right, previously. But what if we changed our mindset and saw change as an opportunity to engage differently and learn new things? What if we saw it as the way to get things done, and the way to inspire us, help us learn, and help us achieve? Fred Emery articulates this brilliantly “Instead of constantly adapting to change, why not change to be adaptive?”
Understanding this may be easy however making it happen is another thing altogether. So where to start? Here are four strategies that will help shift mindsets and perspectives for organisations and leaders who want to get this right.
1. Make it make sense
Context matters. Change cannot and should not happen in isolation. When a company or team undertake any initiative without the benefit of alignment to a functional or organisational strategy, it can create confusion or a disconnect between what is happening and the broader priorities. Alternatively, being able to clearly articulate how one enables the other creates clarity and purpose. Dan Pink’s amazing book Drive, explores the powerful motivating force of purpose in creating inspiring and engaging commitment. Everyone wants to know they are moving in the right direction, and that it’s a direction that matters.
2. Make it matter
Change becomes very personal when we are asked, or expected to do something that requires us to be different from what we are. The question we all inevitably ask ourselves when we are presented with something that requires us to do something different is What’s in it for me? If this question cannot be answered then probability suggests success is going to be unlikely. It’s not that as individuals we are singularly selfish, or wish to be difficult (although I am sure we all have our moments), it’s just that a change usually does seem like more effort. And effort involves energy and attention that can be too much in the plethora of some many other competing priorities we have in both our professional and personal lives. Being able to explain the benefits of what’s coming and what it might mean in a before versus after scenario can create a powerful force in the direction the change is needed. Too often leaders and organisations expect people to simply get it and don’t take the time to communicate and break this down meaningfully. Doing so can make all the difference.
3. Make it simple
Even if context is set and personalisation has been defined, it’s easy to get caught up in the confusion around the how. Best intentions are often abandoned because we are derailed by competing priorities, or simply because it seems really hard; as noted above, so much of change requires what we interpret to be exponential and often unnecessary effort. In their book Switch, Chip and Dan Heath explore the importance of providing a simple and clear path for those who want to implement a successful change. In the corporate world, we all know the conversation around SMART goals. Our approach to change should not be any different. Set small milestones that are well defined and achievable. Celebrate the success upon achievement before moving on to the next one. And acknowledge that a setback is not a failure, or a reason to give up. In fact, in the digital dialogue, it’s simply an initiative of testing and learning.
4. Make it the way things get done
Change should never be an afterthought. It should be ingrained into the organisational DNA. Understanding that not everyone is going to be on board from day one is one thing. Working out what to do about it and create the impetus to move in the right direction is a challenging proposition but as many organisations and teams have shown before, it is possible. In the digital world, it is very easy to be distracted by the technology and its potential, losing sight that it is man + machine that realise the true potential of transformation. Understanding this and incorporating it into the ways of working will enable the cultural engagement that is required to become an organisation that is adaptive and agile at heart. Leverage the expertise and willingness of those have become a part of an initiative to build stories and share learnings from what worked and what didn’t. Then integrate the learning into the next program and the next, continuing to build until there is a shift of momentum towards the change, as opposed to resisting it.