“I really need to make this change to become more productive. I have tried and I just don’t how to get it done.”

“We have a culture in our organization that I am not happy with and want to get it moving in a new direction. I have found a lot of internal resistance. Not malicious, more of an ingrained culture. How do I get started on the change process?”

Sound familiar? If you want a specific change in yourself or your work culture you have to be deliberate. Personal and organizational change takes energy. There is built in friction and resistance. Where do you start?

Let’s make this as simple as possible. Here is a perspective to consider.

  • Define what success looks like
  • Identify the driving forces for the change
  • Identify the resisting force for the change

This thought comes from Edgar and Charles Schein who have been studying corporate culture for years.

Make this an equation. In order to succeed, the drivers have to outweigh the resisters.

Personal Change Example

Delegation is an area I often find leaders wanting to change. In the example below picture yourself in the position of the leader wanting this change.

The starting point is to define the desired end state, which is usually broadly stated such as; You want to off-load some tasks and have less on your plate. This is too general. Here is something more specific. You want monthly financial reporting to be handled by someone else and you become a reviewer rather than doer.

Great, the end state and the change desired is specifically defined. Create more time for yourself by delegating preparation of the monthly financial reporting.

Now, define the driver(s) for this change? This may take a little more digging.

“Spend more time operating at the strategic level of the business rather than the tactical. I have to lose the feeling of being overwhelmed with tasks others are capable of completing.”

Next, what are the obstacles? What’s stopping the change?

“First, I’m a perfectionist. I think I’m the only one capable of accomplishing certain tasks correctly. Or, I haven’t put the effort into training someone in this area. Also, I resist delegating any responsibilities related to money and budget. I have trouble letting go of that responsibility.”

Great. A well-defined and detailed obstacle.

Last step, take an objective look and compare the drivers versus the obstacles. Which is greater. When the drivers outweigh the obstacles, action. When they don’t, inaction.

This sets the stage for the big picture. If you decide, handing over the responsibility of financial reporting is too risky, that change is not going to happen. Once the change decision is made, the details of what to change and how can be determined.

I personally experienced this at home recently. We have a storage unit that houses our seasonal decorations that I have been reluctant to empty. Until we were notified of a 20% increase in rent. Suddenly all the excuses could not justify my inaction. The detailed actions followed in quick succession. The change is underway.

Organizational Change

This works for organizational change as well. However, it will have significantly more detail. Also, when implementing organizational change, think culture change and increased complexity. Organizations have multiple cultures. There is the social culture – how people are treated.  The technical culture – how the work gets done. Along with different subcultures and even micro cultures embedded in areas of the organization; marketing, sales, engineering, accounting.

Defining the change and desired end state is typically easy for the leader. Defining the drivers slightly more difficult and defining the obstacles extremely challenging. Drivers can range from a feeling the CEO has to extreme market conditions.

Utilize this approach to initiate a change process. Investigate and specifically address the reasons for change. These are your drivers. Follow with an analysis of the obstacles. This forces leaders to explore the culture(s) of the organization, assess the scale of resistance (the obstacles), and the magnitude of the change task (the imbalance of drivers vs obstacles).

Do you understand the imbalance between the drivers of a desired change and the obstacles?

Yes. Then you understand the likelihood of successfully implementing that change.