One of my clients is going through a fascinating journey of true transformational change. It has been a hard process, and one that is probably in all honestly only going to get harder before it gets easier. Notwithstanding the immense progress he has already made.
Reflecting on his journey so far has given me pause for thought around three aspects of being a change leader.
Prepare for the change
Firstly, there is sometimes a temptation to jump in and do what needs to be done, particularly if it is something hard. The other temptation is the opposite, which is to put it off for as long as possible and hope that it gets better in the meantime. My observation around good change done well is that there is a middle ground, where good solid preparation is done before hand, giving the change the best chance of success. Where contingencies are considered and prepared for. Where stakeholders are consulted with. But ultimately, where the change is progressed in an appropriate and timely manner. Having a good project plan, and a good change plan are of course, essential to this; as is having good advice, and taking the time to think, dream and plan before implementing.
Track the progress
Secondly, it can be very hard, whilst in the middle of it, to see much progress at all. Often things just look murky and painful and difficult, as people and organisations move through the cycle of change.
A key to this is to make sure you are tracking the changes, the progress, how far you have come. It is a funny thing about change, but the new so very quickly becomes the norm that we forget how it ever was before. Or the “old days” become the subject of war stories that take on a legend and life of their own.
Again, there is a sensible middle ground, which is to try to record the journey in all its glory (the good, the bad and the ugly!). It is one of those things that you think you will remember forever, but when it comes down to it, the details quickly become fuzzy over time. Tracking the journey as you go, being clear on the starting point, making sure you learn from the mistakes as you go, are all key aspects of recording and learning from the journey.
Taking care of yourself
Finally, it can be a difficult job, this change business. There will be days when it doesn’t feel like much fun at all, when you are dealing with fall out after fall out from the change, and you still have to do your day job. My tip here is two fold, one: to look after yourself in all this. It is tempting to work all hours known to man, to keep going, on and on and on. But this is a long game, and being on top of it, fit and healthy is key. All the usual suspects of: good relationships, exercise, decent diet and sleep and some form of relaxation/distraction outside of work help with this. The other part is resilience. We have talked before about how change is often about just pushing through –one foot after the other. Being resilient is key to that.
There is a reason why changes are often abandoned half way through. Change is hard. It requires sustained effort and focus. Day after day. But there is a way to not only survive it, but thrive through it.
Thanks to blog.business.tomtom.com for the image