In this Random Thoughts post, we examine work you and your team need to accomplish in order to create a genuine sense of urgency for change in your organization. After the initial assessment phase, it is often the case leadership or design teams will begin to ask questions about “next steps.” They have a sense the process is about to shift from straightforward analysis to more complex decision making about the organization’s future.
As a former business transformation consultant, this is is the point where I had to share three inconvenient truths with many leadership or design teams. First, I had to tell them that no one in their organization cares as much about this work as they do. Second, I had to remind them that employees and other key stakeholders (e.g., corporate executives or owners) may not agree with their assessment results and in fact, may have a vested interest in ignoring problems (hard to believe I know). Third, I had to challenge them to “step up” and accept the job of helping others navigate through the difficult process of letting go and embracing a new path or course of action.
To drive home these points, I often used the famous quote from American humorist Will Rogers: “Even if you are on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.” Other times, when concerns about resistance to change surface, I use the boiling frog story (also known as the Boiling Frog Syndrome):
“If you throw a frog into a pot of boiling water, he will jump out. But if you place a frog into a pot of cold water, and turn the heat on low, it will float there quite placidly. As the water gradually heats up the frog will sink into a tranquil stupor. Before too long, with a smile on its’s face, it will unresistingly allow itself to be boiled to death.”
At times, team members would ask me if I thought their enterprise was at the boiling frog stage. I typically avoided a yes or no response and instead offered: “maybe, maybe not … what do you think?” And that lead to important dialogue and conversation about the depth and breadth of change needed to resolve current issues and level of commitment to work through any and all challenges.
One resource I wish had been available to me during my first career as a management and business consultant is the Change Accelerator© platform from Emergent Consultants of Denver, Colorado and its toolkit of 60+ change management tools. In particular, both the Health Check and Activity Checklist related to Create Urgency, the second phase of the Accelerating Change and Transformation (ACT™) Model, would have been very helpful during this stage of the process.
In the Create Urgency Health Check, there are seven areas which describe competent performance in this area of the ACT™ change management model:
- We have gathered specific data that demonstrates the need for change.
- We have linked the need for change to the company’s ability to compete.
- We have framed the need for change as some combination of threats and opportunities, and sorted them into the short-term and long-term.
- We have provided a credible assessment of the likely consequences (business results) if we do not make this change successfully.
- We have defined the likely benefits (business results) of effective implementation of this initiative for the organization, units, and individuals.
- The team responsible for making this change happen is aligned around the need for this change and feels a genuine sense of urgency.
- Key stakeholders outside of our group/unit/organization understand the reasons this initiative is critical; and feel a sense of urgency.
I think statements #3 and #6 in this Health Check are important for you and your team to consider. Item #3 often is a great way to externalize the need for change and sidestep (for the time being) sensitive social and political issues that could derail a young change management process. A tool called Threat-Opportunity Matrix in the Change Accelerator Toolkit is an excellent way to develop a compelling “case for change.”
Item #6 is the second statement in the Create Urgency Health Check I would ensure is present for every member of your immediate team. The words aligned and genuine are important indicators for knowing if you are ready to engage other team or organizational members in the business transformation process. Without alignment and a genuine sense of urgency, you could mistakenly proceed ahead thinking team members “have your back” and are supportive of change (when they aren’t).
These tools from Change Accelerator© will help you implement the Principle of Involvement (people support what they help create) and enable your enterprise to successfully navigate these first stages of organization change, growth, and transformation.