How a ship’s voyage can help show the benefit of good change management

A lot of what we do is help clients articulate how they want to change, and then work out what they need to do to get there.  It’s fascinating work, because not only is there the obvious change management component; this also touches on an organisation’s culture, its systems, people, processes, skills, strategy, vision and business planning.

Often, this starts off as a desire “to do things differently” or the knowledge that “things need to change around here”; but with no clear view on how they need to change or what needs to be different.  It’s a funny thing, but actually articulating how things could and should be, can be a very difficult process.  People are often so caught up in the day to day running of an organization that pausing to reflect, think and plan just doesn’t happen.

Answering the questions of “who do we want to be?” “Where do we want to be?” “What do we want to look like in five years” can all seem too hard at times, and consequently don’t get asked (or answered).  But being clear on who and where you want to be affects everything – your business plan, your processes, your systems, your structures, who you employ and the skills they have now (and they skills they will need in the future).

The analogy of the ship setting out to sea helps simplify the rationale behind this need for clarity. You wouldn’t just leave port without knowing where you were going, having a clear route mapped out, ensuring you had sufficient supplies and the appropriate crew, and being mindful of risks that might come upon you during your voyage such as bad weather, pirates or mutiny!

This process doesn’t need to be all consuming. It doesn’t need to be complex and difficult. More than anything, it’s about having the time and space to actively ask the right questions, have the conversations and reflect on the right answers. Not just tacking them on as an agenda item in an otherwise crammed meeting or a once a year planning meeting. It’s about creating an environment where this sort of questioning and reflection is not only viewed positively; it is considered part of the organisation’s DNA.  And it’s about building the competencies within the organization to enable this on an ongoing basis.

It’s about being clear that the only way you’ll know that you’ve arrived is if you know where you want to go in the first place.

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