I recently read a blog by Forbes, highlighting six factors that can limit us doing the right thing, and instead, result in us doing the easy thing. I really liked the article which described some very powerful insights into why we behave the way we do, despite knowing we could do better.
It got me thinking about what impact the article would have – sure it appealed to my academic interest in theory, but how could it be used to good effect by anyone wanting to ‘do better’ or improve their, or their organisations lot? There was no method in it, no ‘how to’, which is what is usually needed to make a real change in what we do.
By way of a few examples, here are some of the suggestions on how to turn theory into reality. These are not intended as a recipe or model for change, but they will help you think about the things you can do to make a positive difference in your work or home life.
Ignorance: if we don’t know what greatness is or what perfect might look like, we tend to settle for ‘good enough’. What can you do to get over the hurdle of mediocrity? I suggest:
1. Get real data on current state. Not opinion, feeling or the dreaded customer satisfaction survey, but real data that tells us how capable we, our work or our systems are at doing what matters. Typical examples are time to answer calls (pretty meaningless in terms of what matters) vs predictable time to solve a customer’s problem – fully and completely. This is factual stuff which might tell us that our service is pretty average.
2. Gather data. Do this with the people who do the work, their managers and other stakeholders and then stop, review, take time out and ‘tell the story’ of what you have found. This pause is critical and lets you ask yourself if you are happy with the way things are or do you want to make things better? It forces a conscious decision not to accept the current state of affairs.
3. Pause, share, and cogitate. Facilitate a brain mapping/learning session with your key stakeholders. Use formal processes to facilitate, such as World Café, or similar. Create a vision of what perfect might look like. Does this fit in with the context of your organisations values and strengths and remain focused on adding value to customers?
Comfort: change takes us out of our comfort zone. Fact.
4. Build a way of testing your ideas, theories and concepts in a way that demonstrates your vision is workable. If it is big enough in scope or vision, it may be a bit daunting to design an overnight change to your world, so take it one step at a time. Share, communicate and learn. Allow people to make mistakes, learn and build. Get better at how you work together.
5. Once you have a working model or pilot with measures of what matters, stop again. Reflect, cogitate, share. How do you upscale this to the wider organisation? Who else do you need? Are roles and responsibilities going to change? How do you pull help from your HR people?
Momentum: Love the Forbes quote “if you’ve been doing what you’re doing for years and its not so great, you are in a rut. Many people refer to these ruts as careers’.
6. Well, if you have really created a vision of an improved future and if you have supported people in learning, experimenting and sharing, you might have changed culture. Probably in a small microcosm but nevertheless you have the nucleus for change so taking the principles, behind what you have done and supporting the organisation to live them can overcome inertia and stasis. Consciously doing this with leaders, demonstrating values is the only way.
Committees: This sits close to momentum. Committees in my experience, are often the death knell of change and movement – “Lets set up a committee”. “NO” I scream – get some facts and make some decisions. I sometimes remind my clients that it is easier to apologise for having made a great decision without approval than it is to get agreement signed in triplicate by those in authority. By the time that happens everyone has lost interest. Providing you have a clear purpose, understand how change will benefit the customer, the organisation and the people involved, then just get on with it.
Jaime Beckett, Organisational Change Principal Practitioner (07764 635 472 / firstname.lastname@example.org)