Stephen Hawking once said, “Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.”
It’s an interesting thing to think about, especially following Hawking’s passing. Change is so constant, so present, that the skill of adapting can actually promote intellect. Adaptability is a key to success in everything from physical health to scholarly pursuits to achieving institutional or marketplace advantage and esteem.
But why is change so difficult for so many?
Take New Year’s Resolutions, for example. Only about eight percent of people who make resolutions achieve them. Why? One reason is that people often base their strategy on the conviction of their resolve. What’s missing is a tactical plan to support the goal. Without defined milestones, it’s easy to miss incremental, critical wins along the way that lead up to achieving the goal. Undefined goals lead to a watered-down strategy that doesn’t match the fervor of the resolve. They also don’t have consequences. And consequences drive behavior.
This is where the tactical skill building for change comes into play.
Structuring change with attainable milestones enables us to achieve incremental wins, avoid negative consequences and gain an understanding of the value of positive change.
It works in any context. For instance, if you resolve to lose weight, but don’t have a plan for incremental dietary or exercise adjustments — you just say you’ll eat right and exercise — you’re not setting daily or weekly goals with consequences. Six months could go by with no change, resulting in an uninspiring sense of defeat.
But say you support that resolve to lose weight by putting into place an incremental plan. You start adding two pieces of fruit to your daily diet. A week later, you add two glasses of water and 700 extra steps, daily. Two weeks later, you add a weekly yoga class. These goals are attainable, they don’t significantly affect the path of your daily routine, and they have measurable results. The consequences of not meeting a daily goal could include a negative view of the day, but it’s not catastrophic and easily correctable. You just begin again the next day.
The same logic applies to implementing large initiatives at an organisational level, in any industry. Effective change management leads to success. When organisations implement enterprise-wide technology, like the OnBase content services platform, it can have a significant effect on the employees, partners and even customers who interact with that technology. Enterprise applications affect how individuals do their work on a daily basis. Changes to this technology affects their processes, job roles, workflows, reporting structures, behaviors and even their identities within the organisation. The consequences of not managing this change could be catastrophic.
Create a Vision for Change
Effectively managing change starts with a Vision for Change. The most compelling visions share these four components:
- Leader Initiated: Organisational leaders must demonstrate active and visible participation. Ensure that people with authority, power and influence visibly lead the change and motivate others to achieve successful project implementation.
- Positive & Inspiring: A compelling vision pulls at heart strings. All leadership communications, training and tactics should convey what’s at stake to all employees whose roles are affected by the change, considering what motivates them and what consequences will drive their behaviour.
- Shared: The entire organisation needs to share and support the vision. Use communications and activities to engage employees, managers, leaders and external stakeholders, keeping everyone informed of what is changing and why changes are being made.
- Comprehensive & Detailed: Your vision must explain the How, When, Why and What. Ensure that all stakeholders understand the case for change and the business benefits associated, including how and when they will be involved in project activities. Identify risks for the implementation and measure the impact and probability of such risks.
Give It a Shot
The biggest risk is doing nothing to manage change. Providing the proper tools and training to help end users operate successfully in the new environment is absolutely critical. Without a sensible vision, change efforts can dissolve into a list of consuming projects that take the organisation in the wrong direction, resulting in chaos and missed opportunities.
Engage change management consultants for help formulating a comprehensive plan or any component of it. With a sensible Vision for Change, everyone understands the value and vision, change has a positive and welcome effect, and organisations remain nimble, able to gain competitive advantage.
Jack Welch, Chairman and CEO of General Electric, emphasised the role leaders must play in managing change. “Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion,” he said. An intelligent observation by someone skilled in the ability to adapt to change.