Don’t Look Now…Change Is Coming

When the Need for a New Approach Blows In, Be Prepared

By Mark Stallard

Imagine this scenario: an impending, blustery storm is suddenly bearing down on you and your organization. An unexpected and sour mood has blown into your office causing low-end performances, mediocre sales and leaving the workers downtrodden with pent-up reservations. I know I’m sounding a bit dramatic—describing these kinds of situations can have the feel of a bad movie. No matter, you can’t stop watching the drama and trying to guess what will happen next. Each passing day brings a higher sense of urgency to the plot—I mean your office—and soon you’ve lost customers and a few employees. To add a little spice to the situation, you’ve got new accounts asking for things you can’t do and dealing with them is too much for the operation to handle.

For a movie, it’s an awful plot, and in the end, I’m pretty sure a twister takes everyone down.

In real life, it’s bad news headed toward a predictable ending, but out of this chaos one thing is clear—a change needs to be made. We’ve all endured crazy weather and awful films, but riding out the stormy times of workplace problems can be just as terrible with over-played dramatics and make-believe villains. Before the raging winds of the aforementioned problems get any closer, leave your theater seat and get moving—change is calling.

First thing, fight off the knee-jerk urge to ignore the call and embrace it. Unlike the characters in the bad movie, you have the power to control your own destiny. A simple rule to remember is that making change is nothing more than meeting the disguised needs of your business.

Be Ready

Failure preys on the unprepared—disaster films are loaded with failure—and while it is unfeasible to treat every rising problem as an impending debacle, having an upfront, generic-change list—a good script—will help you divert and stop real problems before they become overwhelming.

In my little movie scene, we don’t know what the problem is, and it doesn’t matter. Whether the change need is small in scope or a cry for a massive overhaul of an entire process or product, the reasons should be neatly outlined and documented before you do anything. In a way, you’ll be writing your own screenplay.

Here are a few simple steps to follow as you compile your plans for change:

  1. Research the problem, then research it again. Make sure you have more than one course-of-action option to implement as change. Do a strong comparison between the new choices to the current state.
  2. Communicate the need for the upcoming change at an all-employee meeting.
  3. When asked, “Why are we changing?” make sure you have the answer. If not, the change will surely fail.
    Hint: Do not play “Blowin’ in the Wind” at the meeting.
  4. Keep everyone involved in the change selection process, be it through meetings, emails or surveys. Recognition of Individuals’ value is an important part of the process, and like a good movie, gives them a strong concept to grasp.
  5. When the change solution is ready, tell everyone at the same time, and when possible, do it in person—this should stop rumors, or at least slow them down. Immediately follow up with more communications about the change: more emails, meetings and maybe a cool blog or two.
  6. Be flexible and open to tweaking the plan.
  7. Finally, don’t be afraid to make the necessary change (or to stop watching the bad disaster film).

As you begin the new process, remember that even “change” changes. And what I mean is that the process of making change usually evolves as it moves forward. There will be some instances when the “change” morphs away and in the end no action is needed, at least in the original trouble areas.

Good Things Are Never Easy

Can you really embrace change? Absolutely. But there can still be invisible traps connected to all manner of change—do not look for a change or make one simply to “make a change.” And don’t be fooled into complacency; one of the great truths of change, as I’ve found in my own experiences, is that if ignored, it will happen on its own, and usually in the worst of possible ways—and that takes you back to a bad movie.

Change is hard. Moving away from comfort areas—common processes and products, customers we know and trust, even the acceptance of new employees, leaves most of us off guard and out of sorts. Just looking at and dealing with the unknown is scary. Remember that nothing ever stays the same, but things can stay relevant and good, even when they’re changed.

When the credits are rolling—all of the items on your prep list have been met and the needed change has been successfully implemented—it is important to note that the next storm is possibly already moving your way, ready to immobilize your clients, employees and product. Stay alert, keep communicating and never stop preparing for the next challenge. And the next time a disaster movie hits the theaters, read the reviews.

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