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Before You Bring Change

I'm passionate about helping people bring change. But sometimes change-makers jump in too quickly and then can't figure out why others don't want the same change they do. I've been there. And it's easy to then assume the worst about people. We might think they won't change because they're selfish, or greedy, or small-minded, or stubborn. It's possible, however, that the reason they won't change is because of us.

Years ago I read a book on management that taught a specific way of getting teams focused and productive. I was convinced we needed to implement this system at the organization I led. So, I gathered my senior leaders, taught them the basics of the system, and announced we were going to implement it immediately.

It. Was. A. Disaster.

We worked at it for almost a year. People resisted it for almost a year. We spent huge amounts of time and energy trying to get people to change that would have been far better spent accomplishing our mission. What went wrong? Looking back I made one major mistake that played out in two ways.

Change is the bridge that connects our past to our future. The major mistake I made was not thinking deeply about how to build this bridge so people could actually walk across it.

The first way this played out was through my lack of planning. Hardly anyone simply flips a switch and changes over night. Change requires new values, skills, priorities, and habits. It takes time to develop these. And I had no plan to help people through the process.

Think back on the last time you made a major change in your life. How easy was it? For most of us, it takes a lot of trial and error, back and forth, progress and failure before the change is locked in. Without a plan for implementing the change, this all happened in random, chaotic ways and left people wishing for the good old days before John had this crazy new idea.

The second way my major mistake played out was that I didn't communicate a compelling vision for the change. I simply explained the change and told people we were going to do it. I gave them no "why" to hold on to. Honestly I put my leaders in a really tough spot. They were responsible to sell this change and implement it throughout the organization, but I never gave them the tools they needed to be able to do it. Without a vision for change that is more enticing than the vision for staying the same, people will always resist change.

What change are you hoping to bring? Why is this change important and urgent? What will it look like once the change has been implemented? How will people's lives be transformed? What steps will be taken to implement the change? How long will it take? How will you shepherd people's emotions (good, bad, and ugly) during the change process?

I'm a big believer in change and I love change-makers. But, before we start our next change initiative, let's make sure we've done our homework so we can make it successful.


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