“Large scale change” often means managing the people, processes, systems, such that they are working in alignment with the agreed-upon strategic direction(s) for your company.
While this is a very simple statement, it does not express the magnitude of this change and what it means for you and your organization. A large-scale change project has a great deal of implications, especially for that of the CEO. What does it mean to stand in front of your staff and state declaratively: “This is the next direction we are going to go.” What risk does this statement carry? Or asked differently: what would happen if things don’t work out the way that you hope?
Let’s go down this road for a moment. So, perhaps it’s a lot of time and effort that is lost, both by you and your staff. There could be a lot of precious wasted time that cannot be recovered. Perhaps there are a lot of people depending on you, so it’s your credibility and sense of authority that’s on the line.
And of course, there are other factors. Really, you know exactly what’s at stake. So you do your best to insulate yourself against these risks and dangers, performing assessments and identifying solutions in a preemptive fashion. That lessens the feeling that you are flying by the seat of your pants.
But it doesn’t take away the fact that things still happen down the road. Let’s say you are half way into a project, and many things occur that you were not able to anticipate in your initial analysis. Was the budget under estimated? Was the time line too optimistic? Oh well is the usual thought. Keep going anyway, because we’re too deep into the project.
So in reality, the magnitude of the change effort is measured by the commitment involved on all levels, especially by those who call the shots in the system. The bigger the change effort, the bigger the commitment involved. And vice versa: if the commitment piece was easy, it would not be considered a “large” scale change of any sort.
So, let’s think about this differently. Professor J. Gregory Dees states that the language of the challenge/opportunity can be re-framed not as a question of “whether” it will happen, but “How can it happen?” That is, how can we manage the process to get from point A to Z? What can we do along the way to ensure success? How can we educate ourselves and others along the way so that we are as prepared as possible to meet the challenges down the road?
The more time and effort we spend in the “How can” category, the more we are able to understand the context and texture of the change, and therefore are able to commit to this effort.
That’s the funny thing about human nature: we can allow our minds to get stuck in the dichotomous either/or realm in the world of outcomes. But when we begin to explore the process by which we plan to arrive in these outcomes, we tend to be better off. This is not always a frame of mind that is accessible for many of us, especially when we are highly accountable (or at least, feel highly accountable) to make certain outcomes happen.
Does that sound like your job?
How can we re-focus our attention to the process by which we arrive at an outcome, instead of believing the reality of the ancillary implications of “what if?”
Have comments or questions? Have ideas for a topic? Write to me at developyourorg [at] gmail.com.