Look Before You Leap at Change
Ask these 8 crucial questions to make sure everyone's on board before you act.
Change is hard to deal with. Just thinking of the word can conjure visceral reactions and the expectation of difficulties, resistance, anger, betrayal, shock and misfortune. But hesitating before you implement a change isn't necessarily bad. When problems occur in business, the most adaptable entrepreneurs jump at the opportunity to make a change. Occasionally, though, they leap too fast.
Entrepreneurs who want to do something differently should ask themselves the following crucial questions before implementing a change.
- What's wrong with the status quo? If revenue, recruitment, sales or morale is down, that's a symptom that something isn't right. But it's not the cause. Take a serious look inward and find the real source of the problem.
- Do others agree with me? Perhaps you're the only one who sees that something is wrong. Since you are at the top of the corporate ladder, your perspective is key. But do you have validation or other examples that something is askew? Furthermore, do others see the problem you see? If not, your task is to convince them that a problem exists. No change can take place unless people feel the need to change.
- Have I selected people from all levels to implement this change? You need to put together a team to address the causes and implications of the difficulty. Individuals in different jobs will see the problem differently; some may not even be aware a problem exists until you point it out. But these people will be the ones to help implement your changes, so their input and agreement in the formative stages of change are absolutely necessary.
- Do I have a plan to remedy the situation? Together with your team, craft an action plan to address the problem and create a system to ensure that it doesn't recur. The plan needs to explore the issue from various perspectives. It needs to be flexible enough to adapt to new aspects of the problem, especially unforeseen issues that may arise at any point.
- Are others on board? Count on members of your team to be on your side. After all, they've looked at the causes and effects of the issue you want to change, so their allegiance should be expected. But check nonetheless because you need to be sure they will serve as ambassadors, spreading the word to colleagues throughout your organization. You may also need a dedicated team or department meeting to explain the problem and the need for change. You need to spend time at this phase to ensure the overall success of your plan. Again, unless people see the need for change, they won't want to change.
- Have I identified obstacles and sources of resistance? Omitting this key step can create conflict and result in resistance--and even sabotage--by those who disagree with your actions. Be sure to identify those employees or departments that may be adversely affected by the change. Work to gain their support before implementing your changes or they might stonewall your actions.
- Do I have demonstrable backing to support my change? Invariably, someone will ask, "Who else supports this? Management? The Board of Trustees?" You need to be prepared with a positive response that demonstrates you have consulted with important others in your organization and that they support your efforts and conclusions. Without their endorsement, employees might doubt the validity and certainty of your actions.
- Do I have a time frame, a budget, the people necessary to help me and other resources? Now that you and your team have devised a plan to implement the change, you need to make sure the timing is right. Is it the right season or quarter of the year? Is immediate action required or can you wait for a more opportune moment?
Beyond the time issue, do you have the funds necessary to advertise the change internally or externally if necessary? Do you need additional staff at various levels in your organization to carry out the modifications and verify their effectiveness? This may take time and training, and those costs must be considered in your original time frame for launching your change.
Answering these important questions can save your change efforts. Spending time early in the process to bring people on board and ensure that others within your organization understand both your motives and your plan will certainly improve the chances that your plans will succeed.
Dr. David G. Javitch is an organizational psychologist, leadership specialist, and President of Javitch Associates in Newton, Mass. Author of How to Achieve Power in Your Life, Javitch is in demand as a consultant for his skills in assessment, coaching, training and facilitating groups and retreats.