Some years ago, a yachtsman competing in the BOC challenge pulled into Sydney harbour. He and his fellow competitors were sailing solo around the world. They were competing against each other, but also against themselves. In a real sense, the challenge of the race is facing the fear of the unknown and the limits of one’s personal capacity and endurance.
Notwithstanding the dangers, most sailors succeeded – not in winning the race, but in facing the challenge and giving all that they could. In the end, success comes down to three things. A sea-worthy boat, a skilled sailor, and a trusty map.
Organisational change can be like the BOC challenge. You hope your organisation won’t founder as it steers into unknown waters. You hope the leaders know how to navigate around the dangers. And you hope your maps are reliable and up to date.
Getting ready for change is about similar things. It’s about making sure your organisation can move through the change process successfully. It’s about ensuring your leaders understand the landscape of change and are personally adept at it. And it’s about having a reliable map to navigate by, enabling you to make the most of your strengths and minimising your risks.
There’s an old saying that if you want something done, go straight to the top. In a similar way, getting an organisation ready for change must start with the leaders. The leaders need the latest and best maps. They need reliable, up-to-date information about change readiness so they can make the most effective decisions.
Projects and process
Leaders and managers usually think in terms of change projects. They see change as a project that needs managing. They brake the project down into smaller steps so they can deliver many small wins.
It’s okay to see change this way, but if that’s all you see, you’re only looking at one side of the coin. Change may present as a project with its distinct character in place and time, but don’t just focus on the elements of the project. In a counter-intuitive way, change also has an unchanging quality to it. Change projects come and go like boxes on a conveyor belt, but the change process itself is always the same. If the boxes are the change projects, the conveyor belt is the change process.
What leaders should understand
Leaders need to develop a deep and workable understanding of this unchanging change process. They need to understand the common landscape of change and learn to distinguish between the changing elements of a change project and the unchanging elements of the change process.
Leaders also need to understand the psychological demands the change process makes of people, and what they need to bring to be successful at it. They need to learn how to recognise and describe the change strengths employees possess, as well as their limitations. They need to understand how and what to develop in people to make them more agile, adaptable, and engaged in change. These are the type of employees who embrace change for the good of the organisation, not those whose first thought is to resist it and dig their heels in.
And leaders also need to understand exactly what is needed to make their organisations ready for change. There are some key elements found in all organisations that, if aligned and harmonised, make the organisation ready for change. But those same elements will undermine change and cause it to fail if they are in conflict. If there is one thing that research has shown us about change it is this – change overwhelmingly fails due to factors internal to the organisation. It rarely fails from the outside.
Start with information
Knowledge has always been power; but only if the knowledge reflects reality. The Change Gym provides comprehensive training on the change process, change fitness, and change readiness. This training helps leaders see reality more clearly and helps them be better leaders.
A clear vision of organisational reality is foundational to good decision-making and effective leadership. If the leaders within your organisation would benefit from a clearer vision and a deeper understanding of organisational change and change readiness, book a free exploratory session with Dr Steve Barlow.