Where should you focus first when bringing change to a business

Old Way x New Way Crossroad

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Implementing change represent challenges on three levels. Affecting the ways of working for company, teams and individuals. But where do you start when you have a need to put in place change at all levels.

Creating a catalyst for company-wide change

When a company trigger a major change initiative the understanding of why play a key role. You can leave what and how open in the beginning, but need to nail why.

First to make sure all employees are on board on why change and why change now is the way to go. Second to make sure you have a shared view on the reason for the change. When why is clear and strong enough, people find ways to address what and how.

Build initial momentum when why is clear

Once the why is clear and communicated you have triggered the change process. Where momentum is building and brewing in a variety of different ways. You want to leverage the creativity of your whole company. And the number of ideas and suggestions fast grow beyond your execution capabilities. Creating risks for negative set-backs early on.

Common patterns in the phase when change momentum is building up are

  • Momentum grows at different pace in different parts of the organization.
  • Ideas from individuals cross a broad spectrum. From company-wide change initiatives. Down to small initiatives improving individuals’ daily life. And everything between.
  • A good ideation process avoids prioritizing between initiatives in the beginning. Making all suggestions and viewpoints count.
  • A need to guide the organization on where to put initial focus.

It is easy to get stuck here. Unless you can start implementing even small changes immediately. Many great ideas to change a company get stuck in neutral. Unless all individuals find out how to take the first steps. With smaller change initiatives you can control on your own.

Start with individual change

Encourage individuals in your organization to put focus on a simple first step. Focused on improvements you can do on your own. With a visible improvement tomorrow. And if repeated during a quarter turning it into a great habit.

An organization with a growing number of individuals making small changes today. Serve as a great breeding ground for taking on team change challenges next quarter. Encourage your individuals to be specific in formulating their personal change initiative. Avoid formulations like “I want to run more to improve my health”. And strive towards “I want to exercise 3 times per week to get in shape for a 10k run in 3 months”. The latter will produce better outcomes. When applied to any change initiative.

Expect the change initiatives among individuals to drive progress in different directions. The alignment is not important at this stage. But it is vital make a large share of your staff change capable. Great changes in early changes initiatives build on passion and immediate actions.

Continue to encourage ideas on how to improve ways of working on team and company level. These ideas will come into play at a later stage.

Expand into changes on team level

Once you have activated change by individuals you can expand to change teams. Where some of the ideas generated in the first phase need a team for implementation. A change capable team built up of change capable individuals.

When moving to the team level your start prioritizing between ideas. And select the ones where you see a big improvement potential. With a manageable effort. The added value of a team come from many individuals concentrating focus on one initiative at a time. Where the diverse skills of the team members further improve the results.

The complexities in this phase is about what you select to do. Nothing is right or wrong if it drives progress. A fact allowing new change initiatives after completion of teh first one.

Ideas for company-wide changes goes through an evaluation in the background. The change momentum building in your organization on team and individual level. Creating and expectation that some of the ideas for change on company level will come.

Move up to change at company level

Important company transformations are top-down driven. With one factor increasing the probability for success of company initiatives. An organization tarined to execute change as individuals and as teams.

At this stage Executive ranks focus on selecting between created ideas. Generated by individuals and teams for company change. Combining related ideas into more holistic initiatives. Building business cases and plans for the most important initiatives.

At this stage company, team and individual change initiatives take place in parallel. By an organization who see change as a way of doing business.

Questions to ask yourself and your team

  1. Have we defined a clear enough why to trigger change momentum – what and how can wait
  2. Have we encouraged or staff to come with suggestions on all 3 change levels – all 3 matters.
  3. Do we have a shared idea in which order we want to execute – individual, team or company
  4. What is our level of change readiness in the company – be honest about this key capability
  5. Do we have a clear idea how we will rank team and company initiatives – expect selecting to be hard
  6. When is the right timing to start company change initiatives – when you know how to change.

Additional reading suggestions

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