Navigating a change process is like moving through a labyrinth – you need to pay attention to the process or you’ll get lost. As I told my Organizational Behavior class, creating change goes against many of the natural inclinations that we have. You need to intentionally pay attention to the change effort itself – not just the outcome you seek — or your actions will carry you in ways that are counter to your effort.

Some examples:

  • Leaders who forget that they have been thinking about change long before they share it with others will be negatively impacted by the Leader’s Lag (dot #2317). You must remember your message is new to others and therefore allow time for them to absorb the idea – even though by the time you share it, you are ready to jump into motion.
  • Changemakers inherently think they can go from the old to the new but will get tripped up if they forget about going through Crazytown first – that period when both the old and new are still present. You must intentionally prepare your team for that period of confusion. (dot #2301)
  • We naturally think that once the change happens, it is the beginning. Not true – William Bridges teaches us that the first stage of a transition is the ending and leaders must help their team deal with loss and limbo before expecting forward motion. (dot #75)
  • Leaders must also fight the natural inclination to squelch tension that occurs. Peter Senge’s rubber band analogy reminds us that the further “current reality” is from “future vision”, the more tension that occurs. Conflict means that you are getting someplace! (dot #371)
  • It’s also tempting and the first impulse to jump right in and start making changes. The School Retool framework reminds us to start with an aspiration (the why) and then identify small experiments that can lead to the desired behavior. Even though we want to act now, we need to know where we’re going before we just head down the road. (dot #2358) We also need to see our actions through the lens of learning rather than just doing, with the former more important. (dot #2359)

Change management is becoming an increasingly important skill in today’s fast-moving world, and, ironically, the faster we move the greater the tendency to focus on the outputs instead of the internal process driving the change. Do yourself and those you lead a favor and be the exception. Helping people through the labyrinth makes it much more likely that the change will endure.

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