Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Knocking the Stuffing out of Change

‘Change’ is bandied about so much and comes with such baggage is it any wonder people get shivers down their spine at the first hint of it. Yet change is everywhere. So why does it have such negative connotations and why is it so difficult? 

From my perspective change conversations can be categorised into two groups – the practical experience and the theory. The discussions I prefer to have are around the former rather than the latter. As a delivery specialist theory doesn’t quite cut it when you actually have to deliver outcomes on the ground and adapt as situations come up. I’ve nothing against theory so long as it supports getting stuff done. Getting stuff done isn’t always that easy because things do change along the way – that’s reality. In order to keep up and still get stuff done we must adapt.

Adapting is an important part of responding to situations as they arise, shift and morph. To adapt we need to be prepared, ready and able to change what, how or when we do something. We might have a plan but sticking rigidly to it ‘because that’s what’s been agreed’ is nonsensical when the change means the plan no longer reflects what’s needed. Being able to adapt allows us to stay focused on the outcome while figuring out the most appropriate way to get there. An ability to adapt well relies on a sound base and that only exists when we know:
  • Why we’re here,
  • Where we’re heading,
  • What the priority and / or sequence is, and
  • What we need to achieve as a result. 
Our capacity to cope with and adapt to change is huge yet I think we underestimate ourselves. In business we’re often too busy wondering what it means, where it will take us, what affect it will have, and what might happen; all unknown factors that form invisible barriers and can quite literally paralyse us into doing nothing.  Whether Execs, senior or middle management, peers or team members, we all need to adapt. Having a sound base and comprehending that base gives everyone:
  • A clear point of reference making it easier to check if the track we’re on remains valid as we move along it. 
  • A point from which to think ahead that helps identify or head off problems early. 
  • The ability to recognise and reduce the inevitable noise pollution and static. 
  • An increased level of knowledge so deviations are less surprising and therefore more manageable when they do occur. 
In the situation where activities, track or outcomes no longer line up with the point of reference, the affect on priorities or direction can be identified and understood quickly and action plans put in place. In other words, we can constantly adapt what we’re doing as the situation requires. We recognise much earlier that our approach or the process we’re following needs modifying, that the current way is no longer suitable. Sometimes it’s a more conscious act and at other times it’s totally sub-conscious. 

As we adapt to changing situations the change itself has less focus. We’re no longer concerned with the change that’s happening. We’re more interested in the possibilities it brings. For without that there would be no change…

How do you adapt and knock the stuffing out of change?

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