If you have ever been 4-wheeling you know it makes a good analogy for change management.
On a journey into the mountains you can expect many obstacles (how fun- that is the point of the trip). Some will be insurmountable.
To get to your destination you must plan, using information from others, your own instincts and logistical lists. Your vehicle likely has a history- its maintenance and ability may determine your success (or chance thereof). There will be many times along the path where you must be in the moment, aware and ready to move to the next place along the trail.
See? Just like change management.
To be ready for change means:
- The Plan
- Being Ready
- Being Present
On the other side of the mountain is the end state.
It REALLY helps to have an idea of what that looks like.
Just like 4-wheeling you will never get it just right. You might get the visual image, but you will not get all the emotions, behavioral change, organizational rearrangement and new status quo perfect. That’s fine. It is the exercise in considering all the factors that can help you draw both a literal and figurative image. That is important for the change process. (And woefully missing for most initiatives).
Foresight is also the ability to stand in the present, move yourself to the future and look back. That is how you avoid missing those risks that will be worried about later. That is how you make sure everything is packed for the trip. That is how you figure out who is invited (and, sadly at times, who is not).
Foresight is what change management practitioners, the ones with multiple initiatives and clients under their belt, practice almost automatically. We are either called to this role because we are good at foresight or we learn it because you cannot survive as a senior change consultant without it.
Develop foresight in yourself and your stakeholders. That competency will serve you well.
This is second.
I can see you crowding around the Jeep or Landcruiser, making your lists, talking about what to expect on the journey itself and already taking the first step into your vehicle.
A plan with no foresight is a journey to failure (maybe). And, yes, a journey without a plan will have the same lack of success.
If you really have crafted a description of the goal, end state, end of the trail, then start planning.
Just plan from that end point back.
Take the Jeep as an example. Gas is your first step. Without gas toward the end you will be walking. Once you calculate the amount of gas you need other decisions are either easier or made for you. Is missing those workouts last week gonna weigh down the ride? Kidding… sort of. It might be you or the beer. Or the beer without the steaks…
For change you may need some specific competencies, or perspective change or behavior change in order for end states to work. Building those up may require a rearranging of other things from the operational part of your day to day existence. Budget, resources, external and internal influence will need to be balanced against the end state needs. And something else may have to give.
When it comes to change management the typical version of a plan- the project plan with all it phases and to-do’s- is the easy part. The plan around what the end state means for every thing else is the tough part (and the forte of change management, high level anyway, to figure out).
With the trip on the Rubicon Trail (the foothills of the Sierra Nevada over the pass to Lake Tahoe) thinking through previous history will be helpful and could happen before or after the plan. The plan itself may include maintenance of the vehicle(s). Are there considerations from previous trips? Have you heard stories (myths?) from others that might influence both your planning and your actions on the trip?
So too with change you have to look back.
“Failed” change is a nasty lead weight for future change unless it is taken into consideration and analyzed (both for tactical mistakes and mistakes of change management, or lack of). The history for the organization in its ability to adapt, and react (or better prepare) is important for the next change.
Part of your plan may include some maintenance.
This is a different ready than described end states and plans- although those too are important.
This is the being ready to adjust, adapt and consider new information. Starting too quickly, setting dates, having a linear perspective tends to take away reflexes for adaptation during the change process. Because of created and false urgency, “being ready” often means being calm and going “slow”. I have seen organizations buzz like a bee hive that are in no way ready for the change they are throwing at themselves.
Being ready is our previous bullet points and being AWARE. Of your organization. Of yourself. Of your stakeholders. Or outside influences. Of a bigger, broader picture for your change than you likely started with, or have.
Which means learning to be present.
If you spend all those fun moments climbing over huge rocks and teetering on the edge of collapse worrying, then, really what is the point?
If you are so wrapped up with the items on the list, with no concept of the list as a whole, or all the lists linked together, then really, why change?
You have to be in the present, after having laid out the journey, in order to succeed.
Enjoy the good and bad. If you can acknowledge both and appreciate the success and the learning that accompanies positive and not so then you will likely get to the end state stronger and smiling.
Cheer when you get to the end of the trail.
We had one driver who made it to the end after two days of almost being upside down half the time- unscathed. His Jeep wasn’t even that dirty. So to put the frosting on the cake in a way he drove through a three foot deep mud hole. What a site he and his vehicle were driving down the freeway on the way home- black and muddy… and smiling from ear to ear (him, not the vehicle although it too might have been smiling under the mud).
If you are not smiling when you get to your end state, then first you are not in the present and perhaps second you missed the description of the end state and you now have no idea you have arrived. You might need some version of a mud puddle dousing (or a vacation?).
As a leader cheer and reward- not necessarily in that order, when you get to the end.
As a leader do what you can after the end state to reinforce the change success, to continue to build the competencies developed and to build sustained change. There is a second mini end state after the change is over and people use and reuse those new behaviors. Be in the present for that too (and be ready along the way).