Friday, March 16, 2012

Time for Change: Testing and Building Support

Last time we talked about change, and focusing your vision on what you can control. Although, that's not always possible, it is easier than many think. Today we'll discuss why testing change is crucial, and how proactively building support in those most affected will make your efforts palatable to others.

Testing Change
If you are one of the estimated 6 million people who watch Smash on television, you may be getting a rudimentary education on how a musical is created. Drama aside, putting together a production entails a process that is similar to creating change.

It begins with an idea and then gathering the resources to bring that idea to life. Resources can be time, talent or treasure. Change often consumes one of those in a disproportionate amount for the short term in the belief that over time it will work out profitably. Securing resources often runs parallel to running a workshop. A workshop is equivalent to piloting a change. It's a way of floating the idea, finding what works and what doesn't and improving any shortcomings. In theater there are auditions, rehearsals and then the preview. All these steps have to occur before opening night, otherwise there’s no show.

One of the failings of change is trying to get through it too quickly. Following the musical model, it would be akin to a writer getting a new idea on Sunday and having opening night scheduled for Monday. That’s a recipe for disaster. It’s the same with your change plan. If there is something that you want different in your team, organization, or even family, then it behooves you to act systematically and help prepare others.

As an example, if you're going to finally write that book that is burning inside of you, something in your routine is going to have to be different to make room for your writing time. It’s smart to start out small first. For example, rather than no longer cooking dinner at night, the fledgling book writer might offer to cook four nights a week, but not the other three because they want to use that time to write. Perhaps they could stay up an hour later or get up an hour earlier once a week to start, and if that works they could expand it to two or three times a week.

The book writer would keep their family or friends engaged by soliciting their ideas on finding more writing time and keeping them informed of their progress. If you engage others, their support will grow, and that’s key for success.

Building Support
A great way of helping people buy into a change is to anticipate the concerns of those who will be affected, and to address them immediately. This takes work, however getting the support of those who are closest to the change is vital for a satisfying success.

Be prepared to respond to those affected by having answers to questions like; What’s the change? Why is it needed? What’s wrong with the way things are now? How will this impact us personally? What’s in it for us? How will we find the time? Will we have to learn a new skill?

Once people gather information and feel their personal concerns have been heard, they inevitably begin to wonder how to start the change. Help them out by answering questions like; What do we do first? How do we manage all the details? What happens if it doesn’t work as planned? Where do we go for help? Is this normal? How will other things change?

After facing some of the ‘pain’ of change, people will question why they can’t return to how things were before and you’ll hear questions like; Is this worth the effort? Is this making a difference? Are we making progress? Are things getting better?

As people recognize that the change is occurring and working, they wonder things like; Who else should be involved? How can we get others involved in what we’re doing? How do we spread the word?

Finally, as you reach the end of your project and it becomes the new normal, some people will grow concerned about the sustainability of all the change with questions like; What’s next? How can we make this even better? Can we improve on our original idea?

It’s unlikely you’ll need to address all the above concerns, however if you are forthcoming with honest answers as similar questions arise, your change will be successful.

Next time we'll discuss the 5 elements of successful change and a way to audit your progress to ensure there aren’t any holes in your plan.

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