Finding The Right Formula For Change

You might have been drawn into a leadership position because you had some idea of how things could be better. You stepped into this role hoping to leave things better than you found them. You wanted people to be better off because you invested yourself into the process. You didn’t want to be part of the problem, so you worked hard to become part of the solution. You realize things can’t stay the way they are in order for the situation to get…well, better.

Here’s the thing: Whenever someone talks about better, it means change is coming. Better = change! (although change doesn’t always equal better)

But how do you go about leading in such a way that you create change for the better instead of changing for the worse? And if it is a change for the better, how can you lead in such a way that your change will actually occur?

The process starts with identifying the key components and characteristics necessary for any effective change to take place. A leader continually looks for ways to communicate and guide those on his or her team in understanding and implementing them. While I offer them here as a type of formula, it’s important to remember that all change is messy. But change becomes even more messy when one of these components is absent from the equation.

1. Purpose – This answers the question: Why do we need to make this change? Most people really don’t like to change. Unless you can provide them with a valid and necessary reason, you will struggle to get people on board with your idea. People will rally behind your proposed change if they feel it has a compelling purpose and leads to a better future.

2. Strategy – Simply proposing a change doesn’t guarantee that it will become actual change. This component answers the question: How will we implement this change? The more people affected by this change, the more difficult it will be to bring about. A strategy helps people know the next step to take in the uncertain path change brings about.

3. Influence - Everyone can have a great idea, but not everyone has the support one needs in order to bring that idea to reality. This component answers the question: Why should I believe you? As the leader, you may not have the influence necessary to change most people’s minds, but you should know who does. Find out who people listen to and get them advocate for your strategy and purpose. If you lack the influence to persuade people that the proposed change is a good idea, you will struggle to bring anything to life.

4. Communication – Throughout the change process, how you communicate can add momentum or stall your strategy and purpose. This component answers the question: What do people need to know as we proceed toward this change? You must clearly communicate and over-communicate purpose and strategy on a regular basis. People will have questions, doubts, concerns, and misgivings. If you fail to continually keep people in the loop, you will lose any valuable influence you may have had and they will find ways to stall your strategy.

5. Resources – If you propose a change, make sure your group or organization has the resources in place to make the change possible. Otherwise, communicate within your strategy how you plan on obtaining the necessary resources you don’t yet have. This component answers the question: Do we have what we need to move into this new area? Resources can be materials, people, systems, money, time, etc. People will resist your change if they feel like they don’t have what is needed to accomplish this change.

If we put each of these components into an equation, it helps us create a working plan to make this change happen (move toward better).

Purpose + Strategy + Influence + Communication + Resources = Leads to Actual Change – People will move toward accepting your change.

If you are missing one of these components, the following shows how it will stall your proposed change.

>> Purpose + Strategy + Influence + Communication + Resources = Leads to Apathy – People feel your change is unnecessary.

>> Purpose + Strategy + Influence + Communication + Resources = Leads to Confusion – People will not know how to move forward.

>> Purpose + Strategy + Influence + Communication + Resources = Leads to Mistrust – People won’t support your change.

>> Purpose + Strategy + Influence + Communication + Resources = Leads to Ignorance – People will be unclear about your change.

>> Purpose + Strategy + Influence + Communication + Resources = Leads to Dead Ends – People won’t be able to bring about the change.

Sometimes, even the smallest idea can be difficult to implement.  Yet change is a necessary function of every organization if it desires to remain innovative and relevant and wants to grow.  Growth, like the idea of better equals change.  This why purpose is so important when one considers leading an organization through the change process.

Leaders realize that every change will cost the organization something. But the price is worth it if the change will move it toward better. Whenever you consider proposing a change within your organization or on your team, run the idea through each of these components. Answer the questions you anticipate your people asking in each area. Be clear about what it will take and what steps will be needed. Don’t leave any part of the formula to chance. Otherwise, you might face more of an uphill battle than necessary.

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