We’ve looked at “How much change can you handle?” a question for leaders to evaluate, and the next question will be “How fast can you change?” This question revolves around the people of an organization – the ones you are charged with providing leadership to. After all, the people who are asked to make the change will have a large influence to set how fast that change really occurs as well as how well the change holds.
With respect to the need for speed, a crisis of survival, health, and/or safety is clearly out of bounds – as is the need to do more of the same to deliver more (i.e. the scaling of existing capacity). Rather, the focus here is change that creates new capacity and capability in the organization. In this condition, a roadmap to move from a shared need in the current state to the future state vision is a way to mobilize commitment and changing systems or structures. As part of that roadmap, designing the sequence of content, delivering in small chunks, and keeping an internal review of progress are critical to the speed of change.
On this road to the future state, the sequence of the information should be logical, in plain words, and relevant to the people doing the work. Based upon the subject matter, the sequence could be linear as in one, two, and three. Or, the sequence could be in tune with structure to reflect the special relationships of the work being done or product being delivered. Information may need to be organized by its conceptual relationships into a framework that creates a common model. The roadmap could wind up quite cerebral and very simple. The clear terms of the content area point to what and how to make change. The sequence of information creates a 360 degree walk of the scope to the change.
Next comes a need to break the information into small chunks along that sequence. With sequence of activity organized into phases, these phases need to be broken down into bite size elements.
The bite size elements should be easy to digest and build upon in a practical sense for the transforming work to be completed. This may arise as one plus two plus three equals six in nature.
Perhaps the parts come together like an assembly of beginning, middle, and end. You may find that starting at the middle resonates with people doing the work, and then build their understanding forward to the end.
The small chunks with a logical relationship to the whole creates the work of change into something that can be learned by employees.
With a right sequence and chunking of information, an internal review is a fundamental element to the roadmap. Reviewing where we are, what we are doing, and the relationship to the overall outcome ensures participants in the change don’t get lost, confused, or anxious. Well, learning and change can naturally create a degree of anxiety given learners learn in different ways. Hence, attentiveness to learner styles would be important to the design of delivery to build the skills needed for the change.
The internal review keeps everyone grounded, and provides feedback to those leading the change as to how effective the change is along the transformational path. There is nothing worse than leading change thinking the change is made when in fact everyone is at a different place wondering about what to do or how to do it. Being out of synch with “how well we are getting it?” is a formula for a change effort that could stall, make only gradual change, or fail.
With the right sequence of information, small chunks of information, and a regular internal review, traction through the roadmap to the future state can make the what and how of change real. Focusing on the people of the organization along this path will be the real determiner of how fast change can occur. So, when you must consider the question “How fast can you change?” you will focus on the people asked to make that change.
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Andrew S. McCune
Senior Process Consultant, Engagement Director
Strategy Deployment, Operational Excellence, Change Management